The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King weaves together magic, suspense, mythology, and romance. At the heart of this story is Kalinda, an 18-year-old orphan who is prone to fevers and doesn’t see herself doing anything other than entering the Sisterhood with her best friend, Jaya. However, her serene life is disrupted by the Claiming and she is now set to be the Rajah’s hundredth rani. Thing is, she has to fight for her place among ninety nine other wives, and maybe find out secrets about her past.
The premise of The Hundredth Queen captivated me. Who doesn’t want to read about a strong heroine and her rise to power as she drives the fall of a powerful kingdom? That’s a fantasy lover’s dream. However, while the book was strong in some aspects such as magic and mythology, there were weaker points that I had gripes with such as plot, character development and world-building. It was all rather predictable and a bit lackluster.
Here’s what I have to say about The Hundredth Queen.
King’s writing is captivating, but sometimes it felt like it was too much.
This is just a personal preference, but the amount of descriptions were overwhelming. I also found some areas lacked descriptions – it’s all a matter of balance. I also felt some areas we were spoon-fed what we needed to know in order to move on with the plot whereas things could have been left to the imagination and for the reader to piece together. Despite this, King’s writing is lovely and I enjoyed her writing style. I also enjoyed the use of mythology and magic throughout the novel; it added an edge and a sense of mystery in regards to the politics and dynamics of magic and the court. However, I did find the mythology to be convoluted, especially in regards to the bhuta and the sacred text.
The character development wasn’t as authentic as it could have been.
Our protagonist, Kalinda is weak, suffers from fevers and has no experience with men at all. she is repeatedly described as terrible in combat and unremarkable – yet, what perplexed me was she is suddenly able to defeat one of her strongest opponents during the Claiming, and is described as “beautiful”. The jumps between her character development were confusing, and while she grows rather quickly into a fierce warrior and woman, I found the supporting characters like Jaya and the Rajah to be a bit two-dimensional. I liked the friendship between Jaya and Kalinda, it wasn’t developed enough for me to grow attached.
I also found Kalinda to be rather plain, but her personality improved when in the company of Deven. Their instalove was predictable and felt a little sudden because of a lack of tension and development, but it was rather cute. Overall, the characters weren’t too impressive and that’s what felt a little off with me: there wasn’t enough tension between the characters and dimension.
Also, the world in which the novel is set does not venture further than the journey from the Sisterhood to the palace, and that’s where the reader resides for majority of the novel. There was a lot of potential for world-building not just through lore and textbook history, but through conversations and exploration. I would have liked more details on neighbouring nations and some history on how the Rajah became so powerful.
The concept of the rank tournament was intriguing yet I didn’t see the point?
It honestly felt like the tournament encouraged girl-on-girl hate rather than sisterhood no matter how hard Kalinda tried. I did like how King explained Kalinda’s disapproval of the system, but because of her negative attitude towards it I didn’t enjoy reading any sections to do with the tournament. It made me uncomfortable and the reasoning behind it all is to rise up in rank – it felt superficial and pointless.
Overall, The Hundredth Queen had the potential to shine and stand out as a unique YA fantasy romance, yet it fell into a rut of predictable plot points and underdeveloped characters. While it was enjoyable to a certain degree (the use of magic was definitely fascinating), the gripes I had with it dampened my enthusiasm.
Disclaimer: I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.