Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.
She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.
She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.
She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.
The Orphan Queen seemed a bit generic in the starting – a lost princess trying to reclaim her kingdom? Magic is a threat? Yeah, plenty of books with similar ideas come to mind. It was definitely not the best fact to realize early on in the book, but then it was saved by its storyline. It has a nice multi-layered plot, even from a single person POV, that is Wilhelmina. Wil impersonates a foreign noble and infiltrates the palace to find information that could help the rebels supporting her. She is fiercely loyal to her own kingdom, and doesn’t consider the Indigo Kingdom her home. But as time passes on and she keeps running into the Black Knife, a vigilante, her priorities realign to saving people than her throne. She rethinks all she has known when she visits the wasteland that was caused by magic users like her. The burden on her is heavy, but she does her best to stick to her ideals, and help the world, not just her kingdom, from the wraith that plagues it.
Meadow’s writing, is as always, beautiful, and she brings Wil alive so brilliantly. And Black Knife, and his identity – if I had not read the short stories before, I would have been pleasantly surprised. The looming threat of the wraith is much like climate change to us, and it makes for the best antagonist. The world, however, feels not completely developed, considering this is a fantasy. Much of the events are enlightening only if you have read the novellas, to, because otherwise they just become incidents that are referred to. However, what happened towards the end was a pretty interesting twist, and I am eager to find out how it will all play out in the sequel.