The Impostor Queen | Thoughts
This had the poor fortune to be the book I read right after A Court of Mist and Fury. To say I am still keening over that story is an understatement...and I knew any book to follow was going to have a rough time.
But The Impostor Queen held its own, even with a few things stacked against it, including my distaste for present-tense narratives. It's both a simple story and not, focused on a people at the brink of internal and external war, with a lot of magic and deception. The overall pacing was quick; the story moved along rapidly, but there were intermittent chapters that stuttered, the pace breaking oddly as we were given historical explanations or character development. Good, concise writing makes up for these areas, though, and the story makes for an enjoyable read.
I liked Elli for the most part, but found myself drawn to the idea of her character more than I felt a connection to her. She is a coddled princess, raised believing she is special, a queen. She's never had to do anything for herself, and I enjoyed the little scenes of her discovering what she is capable of...like putting on her own clothes, or finding water for herself.
"Whimpering with thirst, I throw myself down and scoop the bitter water into my mouth. By the time I sit up, I feel sloshy and dizzy, but vaguely triumphant. I can take care of myself. Mim will be proud of me when I tell her about this..."
"It's not that I think I'm too good for these things. I'm grateful to have them. But I have barely the faintest idea of how to put them on. I've never actually dressed myself...With clenched teeth, I find the top of one of the stockings and shove my foot into it. It gets caught in the narrow tube of fabric. I let out a frustrated little grunt as I wrestle with it. I refuse to let a stocking defeat me."
Despite these simple trials, the author does a fine job of conveying that Elli is not weak-willed, or weak-minded. She has shown that she is full of questions, refusing to accept all the Elders teach merely on their word. And while her pampered lifestyle may have rendered her useless when on her own (at first), it does not leave her shying away from torture when she believes it is the only way to save her people.
"I squeeze my eyes shut. 'Continue,' I say in a broken whisper. I want him to cut me open with that whip. I want him to unearth my dormant magic. I'm not whole without it, and I'm depending on him to bring it out."
As I said, the idea of a character so selflessly dedicated to her people that she would do anything, be anything they needed, is an excellent depiction of a true ruler. And yet, I never really connected with Elli. I liked growing with her as she discovered more and more about herself, about what she could accomplish, but the proper build-up needed to develop a deeper bond just wasn't there for me. The same was true for the romantic element...it wasn't necessarily insta-love, but the emotions leapt too quickly from mere beginnings to inseparable love for me to feel any attachment to the relationship. Though those beginnings, where Elli wishes only to help the one who did the same for her, were very sweet.
The ending is set up nicely for a sequel - not so much cliffhangers as clues of what is to come. Though I'd be content to let the story end here for me, I'll keep it on my radar.
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