About the Book

Title: The Queen’s Rising (The Queen’s Rising #1)
Published: 2018
Series: The Queen's Rising
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Misleading Star Charts
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Peaks And Valleys
Bonus Factors: Boarding School, Found Families
Anti-Bonus Factor: Self-Spoiling
Factor: First In A Series
Relationship Status: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

Cover Story: Misleading Star Charts

I was drawn to this cover’s celestial imagery, but the actual book has little to do with astronomy at all. I thought the four symbols in the corners would be important, but now that I’ve read the book, I think they might just be random symbols? I still find the astrolabe-ish aesthetic appealing, but beyond general atmosphere, it doesn’t fit the story within.

The Deal

The summer solstice is approaching, which means Brienna and her cohort will leave Magnalia House after seven years of hard study in one of the five “passions.” Except Brienna hasn’t actually studied her passion, knowledge, for seven years—she spent the first four trying each of the other passions before winding up as Master Cartier’s second apprentice. So she doesn’t exactly feel confident about her chances of being accepted to college chosen by a patron.

Of course, Brienna’s scholarly concerns become the least of her worries when she starts having visions of the past, visions that might be the key to discovering the truth of her heritage—not to mention a coup that’s brewing in the present.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Brienna takes particular interest in the historian branch of the knowledge passion, which basically makes her a history major. As a former history major myself, I related hard to her enchantment with learning lore from ancient books. And as someone who also took a long time to decide on that major and suffered a major period of post-graduation “now what?”…let’s just say Brienna is basically just a Millennial living in a fantasy world.

As a protagonist, Brienna is more a Frodo than an Aragorn—not the obvious hero, but just as brave in a quieter way. Her mother died when she was young and she’s never known who her father is, so Brienna is very much the quintessential orphan searching for a family. In some ways she seemed very mature for her age, but there were also moments—most of them related to feelings and various relationship dynamics—that reminded me she’s still a teen. All in all, I liked Brienna and would happily be her friend.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

A relationship develops between Brienna and her former teacher, Master Cartier. All of the romance stuff (of which there’s not a ton, per se) starts happening after Brienna is eighteen and no longer his student, but it’s still…weird. He’s known her since she was ten and he was eighteen, and even if he didn’t become her teacher until she was fourteenish…still! Weird!

That said, I was not immune to the swoon. Putting the Daddy Long Legs-esque creep factor aside, Cartier has a mysterious coolness that makes him undeniably attractive. (He’s basically like a hot grad student—and God knows I had my share of crushes on TAs when I was in college.) The tension between him and Brienna has a simmering we-both-know-we-feel-Something-but-we’re-not-going-to-acknowledge-or-act-on-it frisson. The premise of their relationship is built on shaky ground, but Rebecca Ross’ execution is solid.

Talky Talk: Peaks and Valleys

This isn’t an action-heavy, fast-paced book; it takes a while for the main thrust of plot to really get going. This didn’t bother me, as I was pulled in by the worldbuilding and the slice-of-life passage of time at Magnalia House, but those who like answers to come quickly should prepare for disappointment.

Ross crafts many beautiful sentences that had me slowing down just to savor the language. These lush descriptions almost made up for her indulgence in one of my biggest reading pet peeves: a baffling vendetta against the word “said.” Characters in The Queen’s Rising never say anything; they whisper, gasp, stutter, shout, scoff, growl, murmur, confess, etc. etc. ad infinitum. I found this incredibly distracting. Somebody (like an editor!) should have told Rebecca Ross to put the damn thesaurus away.

Bonus Factor: Boarding School

Regal old boarding school building with turrets and ivy on the stone walls

The passion system is incredibly cool, and the idea of going to a mini boarding school where there’s only one student of each discipline (barring outlier Brienna) sounds high-pressure but amazing. (Having taken a couple one-on-one tutorials in college, I will say there’s an obvious downside re: not being able to slack off. It’s hard to have a day where you just don’t feel up to speaking up in class when you’re the only one in the class.) I want to know absolutely everything about the whole system, which consists of the passions knowledge, art, music, dramatics, and wit. The last one, as far as I can tell, is about being a generally charming person. I’m not sure I’d be good at it, but I am very into it as a general concept.

Bonus Factor: Found Families

Characters Jen Jack and Grams from Dawson's Creek standing together

First with her “sisters” at Magnalia House, and again later when she goes out into the world, Brienna finds the family she’s looking for in people who aren’t related to her by blood. One particular relationship gave me Cosette-and-Valjean adopted family vibes that I found very affecting.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Self-Spoiling

A big mystery in the book is the identity of Brienna’s father, except that if you glance at the family tree at the beginning of the book, it won’t be such a mystery. I find it hard to believe the publishers didn’t know what they were doing. Maybe it was an intentional editorial choice? Give the reader information the protagonist herself lacks, adding a layer of dramatic irony every time Brienna wonders about her father? I personally didn’t mind reading the book already knowing that piece of information; instead of focusing on it as a plot point, I found myself focusing on how learning that info would impact Brienna’s character development. But those who would rather avoid spoilers should skip the family trees until the end.

Factor: First In A Series

Stack of YA book series

By the end of The Queen’s Rising, the plot has been all wrapped up, prophecies fulfilled, story beats concluded. No cliffhangers here! But this book is the first in a trilogy, so however neatly things seemed to end, there’s much more to come.

Relationship Status: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

Book, we never had a honeymoon phase—a time when I thought you were absolutely perfect, when love blinded me to any flaws or foibles. But you won me over anyway with your winsome charm and enchanting lifestyle. Sure, I’ve outgrown the blind folly of youth, but that doesn’t make our love any less passionate. You may not be perfect, book, but you’re perfect for me.

Literary Matchmaking

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1)

For a darker, more brutal take on a queen rising to take her throne, try Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake.

The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere #1)

If you’re intrigued by complex father figures and history that literally manifests in the present, swim on over to The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)

Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn also boasts lush descriptions and evocative imagery.

FTC Full Disclosure: I bought this book with my own allowance. I received neither money nor candy for writing this review. The Queen’s Rising is available now.

About the Contributor:

Maria Greer is originally from Montana but goes to school in the Bay Area, where she totally fails to take advantage of the tech industry. Instead, she is majoring in history and creative writing, with which she plans to do…something. Currently her hope is that someone will come along and offer to pay her to read YA novels and eat cupcakes. Until that day, Maria spends most of her time studying and petitioning the university to let her keep a cat in her dorm.

This post was written by a guest writer or former contributor for Forever Young Adult.