The Orphan Queen (The Orphan Queen #1) by Jodi Meadows
Published March 10, 2015, by Katherine Tegen Books
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.
Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.
Three and a half stars
I’m not sure I’ve ever been this conflicted about a rating before. For sure, this rating would not go any lower. However, the conflict comes from whether or not is should be higher. I’m not sure. Let me explain.
The main character of this novel, Wil, is no lost princess who needs to be rescued. After losing her kingdom–and her parents–to a one night “war” with a neighboring kingdom, Wil and all the other orphaned nobles she could find have been training in secret as “The Ospreys” to take back their kingdom. They can pick pockets, forge signatures and fight with the best of them. They have infiltrated the Indigo Kingdom to take back their country.
This is hardly their only fight, however, wraith–the deadly end product of magic use–is threatening to take over the land. So far, there is nothing that can stop it. In the meantime, magic has been outlawed and practitioners are killed on sight. Wil is not only a lost princess and a thief, but also a magic user. She stands to be thrice killed if she’s ever discovered. Even so, she and her best friend infiltrate the castle to find information vital to their efforts to regain their kingdom, posing as noble women even as Wil escapes each night to fight crime–helped and hindered by the vigilante, Black Knife.
As you can tell, this book hardly ever sits still. Wil is always doing something, trying to help someone, or engaged in some kind of fight–physical or verbal. I sat down and read this book in one sitting because there was literally no way to put it down. Even on a re-read. The plot itself is A+, from beginning to end–ESPECIALLY THE END. So fast-paced and magical. I loved it.
Wil herself is the kind of girl that I like to read about. Mostly. (More on that in a minute.) She relies on her own abilities–of which there are many–and doesn’t need anyone else to save her. She gets annoyed when people try. At the same time, she struggles with trying to be the future queen and leader that the Ospreys need her to be, especially when pushed up against the Ospreys de facto leader, Patrick, who is the son of a great general. Her heart is in the right place, but her confidence in herself needs work. I like the mix a lot.
The other characters in the novel are kind of one dimensional to me, which is frustrating. Wil’s best friend, for example, mostly exists as a go between/foil for Wil and Patrick, and Patrick himself is pretty “going to do whatever it takes no matter what” and fairly emotionless. The only character of real interest to me (who is not introduced in the final act of the novel) is Black Knife, but his identity was easy to guess and I got annoyed with how long it took Wil to figure it out.
The world, itself, is where a majority of my love/hate relationship with this book comes from. On the one hand, the idea of wraith being the by-product of magic is fantastic and I love it. The global-sense of this world is also done really well, even though the book is set in only the capital of the Indigo Kingdom. However, there are too many things related to Wil’s magic that are brushed aside with “Well, I don’t know how I did it but I did it so moving on.” I can’t go into detail without spoiling, but let’s just say that it felt like some things within the world were being made up to convenience the plot without much to back it up. Now, I understand that these are questions that will (hopefully) be answered in the next (and last) book, but it just made things feel … too easy and simple. This is one place where I’m conflicted, because I know that these questions are being set up to be answered, but the way they were written bothered me even if I can’t put my finger on why. I just had to factor that into my rating.
Note that I have yet to mention the romance, which is weird for me. I know. That’s because I’m actually okay with how Wil’s romance went, and how it was dealt with in the end of the book. I don’t think that the next book will end with anything less than a happy ending, but I can dream that Meadows will take the anti-cliche situation that she’s set up and develop it out into the sunset. God, I can dream.
The biggest conflict for me, however, is how the character growth goes at the end of the novel. I’m not going to spoil anything, but … I’m still thinking long and hard about whether or not I even like the direction that Wil takes. On the one hand, I can’t really see her character having done much of anything else. On the other, I felt like a lot of her badass agency disappeared. The end of the book certainly set that up to change back to a more kickass version of Wil, but I can’t prove that until I get my hands onto The Mirror King (out in April) so right now I’m just … conflicted.
While I certainly didn’t have the “WOWZA” moment with The Orphan Queen that I had with Meadows’ debut, Incarnate, I still really enjoyed this novel. It is quite possible that I will up my star rating after I get my hands onto The Mirror King. If you’re on the fence about reading this book right now, I’d say that you definitely should it if seems interesting to you, and then get back to me on what you think!