Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.
Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.
Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.
As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.
Having read Rhiannon Thomas’ A Wicked Thing before, I was pretty optimistic going into this book. She writes strong female characters, girls who claim their place in the world. And with Freya, she did not disappoint. Freya’s story revolves around the fact that she is an unexpected Queen – she was far enough from the line of succession that it was never a possibility for her to be a monarch. But when a mass murder leaves her the first one with the claim to the throne, she has to unwillingly accept her position because the alternative is death. The first half of the story, she tries to figure out who could have been behind the massacre that put her on the throne – she is suspicious of everyone around her, with the exception of her best friend, because they all had some motive to get rid of the old monarchy or have her on the throne. She is untried, unschooled and initially not upto the task of running a kingdom, much less do it while there are people gunning to have the monarchy toppled and the previous king’s closest advisor doubting her.
However, as the plot carries on she realizes the burden of being a Queen. She not only has to gain the trust and loyalty of her court, but also ensure a good life for her subjects. She is in danger from all sides, but her priority has to be her kingdom. It was so heartening to see an anxious girl who just wanted to stay out of the limelight becoming a monarch that is revered as blessed by the end of the book. Another aspect of the story which tied in very well was the religion versus science struggle. Freya is a scientist, and her experiments in chemistry are what help her figure out the clue of the deaths, and it is with that and a little bit of faith that she saves herself in the end.
While the book is slow-paced, and lets us grow into Freya’s character and role, it is nevertheless interesting enough to hold your attention despite it. The only reason it took me 3 days to finish it was because I was short on time. The build up was pretty good, right until the climax where I felt it kind of fizzled out. Assuming this is a standalone, I couldn’t get past the open-endedness of the plot and the fact that the Forgotten (how can they be Forgotten if their names are still known?) are not explained until the end – were they really divine or just great monarchs? Even so, I would recommend this book if you love stories about Queens who rise.
Received a free review copy from Harper Teen, via Edelweiss.