The Impostor Queen
Author: Sarah Fine
Release: January 5th 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Magic, YA
#1 in the Impostor Queen duology
Sequel: The Cursed Queen (#2)
Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by magical priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.
But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.
Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.
This novel can be summarized in three words: Deus Ex Machina.
I swear, it was so arbitrary at multiple points in the story, it just got ridiculous after a while. The Impostor Queen showed promise at first, and I liked it for the first few chapters, but after finishing it, I am left quite underwhelmed, to be honest.
For one, the book really takes its sweet time before actually delving into the important story. It wasn't until 35-40% in that the events that the blurb foretold have come to pass. I know that books, especially books that are going to have sequels, can take their time with building their worlds and characters in the beginning, but honestly, the rather long exposition didn't even do that. In a way, it only served to introduce Elli as she is at first, more of a naive, shy kind of girl who can't do anything on her own, and build SUPPOSED connections/relationships that will help motivate Elli later on, however, those were so shallow and insubstantial that I couldn't buy into it.
The one thing this book really has going for it is its unique protagonist. I did like Elli a lot, because her character development is, for the most part, understandable and realistic. Her overall character and personality were appealing to me. She is an eight-fingered bisexual individual who was pampered and isolated her entire life, but when faced with the hardships the real world has to offer, she is persistent. She learns to adjust, and she does so quickly and vigorously. She is determined not to be a burden and to carve her own niche of living, to survive and thrive despite all the set-backs she has to suffer. It was inspirational and just what I want from a strong heroine. She didn't wallow in self-pity, but instead simply accepted her fate and made the best out of what she had.
The other supporting characters were okay, although many seemed to be cardboard cut-outs straight out of the "how to author" book. They were characters I have seen a hundred times in a hundred other books, but you know what? It was alright. I didn't even mind. Not every author has the ability, patience and/or time to build up strictly unique characters from scratch all the time, so I can kind of understand. The work she didn't put into the supporting cast, she put into other stuff. I guess. I think.
I am tempted to say that she put it into world-building, which seems grand and impressive at first, but when analyzing it in closer detail, you see the cracks in it. If I would have just read it as it is and not went over everything that happened with a more critical eye again, I might have even stayed being impressed by it. There's this whole complicated world of magic wielders and non-wielders, who are led by their Valtia, who is, like, the most powerful wielder, and the Valtia always generally looks the same (red hair, blue eyes) and then there is the Princess who is going to be Valtia after the current one dies, and basically no one ever has to do anything but rely on their queen to do everything for them. But she doesn't even have the whole power, because she still needs to listen to what her council of Elders (or Priests? and Priests? Who even is the council?) tells her to do. She can't decree her own laws, she can't make her own decisions, blah blah blah. I mean, don't get me wrong, Sarah Fine really does invest a lot of time in properly explaining how the magic works and where it comes from and all that, which I do appreciate — a lot — but aside from the magic system, we still don't really know anything else. There was a map at the beginning, which features three other countries aside from the one this book takes place in, and one of those three is at war with Elli's Kupari. However, we don't know anything about how they operate, what sets them apart, etc. And the other two? They weren't even mentioned in the novel. Not once. Why even include them on some fancy map when you're not going to say anything about them anyway? Just, generally, there was so much information missing, aside from the magic system which is explained in detail, I can't even tell you what the Kupari value (aside from magic/the Valtia), what they look like (in general), what their beliefs are, and so on.
And she definitely didn't put the effort into the writing, either. I usually don't really complain about writing styles, but something that caught my eye in this one was the abnormal use of double vowels. I don't know what it is, maybe Sarah Fine thought if she did that, her names and words would sound more exotic or whatever, but after a while, I felt really stupid because I had to pronounce all these words and it seemed like every third word was drawn out absurdly long. Like when you stare at the camera, say "cheese" and it comes out this cringe-y "cheeeeeeeeese," you know? I even took the time to make a list of every name or title or word, to make it clear how abundant this supply of double vowels was:
Leevi, Saadella, Maarika, Kaarin, Luukas, Ruuben, Tuuli, Suurin and this doesn't even mention the ones with double consonants, like Elli or Veikko and what-not. I probably forgot like another quarter of these.
Also, sometimes the dialogue was really stilted and artificial, which I pin on the fact that some of the angst-ridden plot lines were usually solved in the above mentioned awkward conversations, such as these:
“I suppose both of us are responsible for hurting those around us, but I also believe neither of us would if we could avoid it.”
“Does that matter, if the result is the same?”
His hand falls away from my back. “I have to believe it does.”
I straighten, drawn up by the pain in his words. I understand the necessity of that belief, especially for Oskar. There's no way I'm taking it from him.
“Then it does,” I say quietly.
Mild spoiler here, but, you see, this scene was supposed to show how affected and burdened Elli is by her power and the consequences of it, that she's sick and tired of hurting those she cares about secondhand, and she runs away because of this inner conflict. Then Oskar runs after her, has THIS conversation with her about it, and immediately she's like, "Shit. You're right." and agrees with him and is fine with it all of a sudden, and comes back to camp with him. WHAT?
Finally, I want to talk about Deus Ex Machina. There is literally no instance when Elli does not need saving, and gets it. I absolutely cannot remember one single time where Elli got into danger and got out of it thanks to her own wit and strength, she always has to be rescued (usually even by the same person, Oskar), and THEN there's this guy that she meets pretty early on in the book, like around 40% who tells her what she is. He then mysteriously leaves for the next MONTHS, leaving her without any answers or solutions to her problem, he just tells her "to survive." And then, when they need it most, this same guy just appears out of freaking nowhere, tells them exactly what he didn't want to tell Elli the first time she met him and gives them all of the freaking answers just when the plot requires it. How very convenient. And then there are arbitrary ominous predictions of the future such as these:
“You'll regret this love,” Raimo warns, kicking lightly at the horse's flank. “Best to smother it now, while it's still kindling. Trust me on that.”
(...) “Will you tell me why?
He shakes his head, tufts of white hair waving in the cold wind that gusts down the narrow path. Behind us come the clomps and clacks of hooves as the others follow. “Sometimes knowing the future is a curse.”
AND HE NEVER EXPLAINS THIS. Guys, this trope right here, the sinister and dire foretelling of the future, which one person inexplicably knows about, but doesn't share how or why and refuses to explain anything, is the one I probably hate the most, right after insta-love. This is just another excuse to create more drama and angst! It is completely shameless! And I hate it!
Okay, I'm done now. This novel wasn't bad per se, you could definitely do a lot worse, but I was really disappointed. I might read the sequel, depending on how I feel about continuing on when it comes out, but I'm not sure yet.