Book Review: The Impostor Queen – Sarah Fine

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Title: The Impostor Queen (2016)
Author: Sarah Fine
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 432 pages
Release Date: January 6, 2016
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

Review

I gotta say, I love the concept of an impostor queen. I really enjoy anyone playing pretend as a general rule (see: my obsession with pretend relationships), and I love it when characters are torn between choices they have to make. The Impostor Queen, judging by the blurb, has both these things and thus is right up my alley. 🙂

And it didn’t disappoint. This is a story about a queen who is more of a slave, one trapped between what she was raised to believe and the realities of her situation. I have to hand it to Sarah Fine: she didn’t shy away from putting her main character through hell and back. Believe me when I say I freaked out a little bit at some parts because I really hated seeing Elli suffer, and it was a hell of a suffering at times.

Now I really liked Elli, so it wasn’t a surprise that I also enjoyed her voice. She was strong, she was stubborn, and she was determined to do right by her people, so ready to sacrifice herself. She was also flawed, so used to accepting things without doubt that confronting her reality didn’t come so naturally to her. She stumbled more than a few times and she questioned herself and what she knew, but she was also brave and courageous.

The other characters were also (mostly) a pleasure to read about. I loved Mim, Elli’s handmaiden and pretty much the only real person who truly cared about her at the beginning of the book. I loved the current Valtia for her gentleness, her strength and her devotion to her people, even in the face of horror:

“Our lives aren’t ours, darling,” she murmured. “We are only the caretakers of this magic. We don’t use it to protect ourselves—we use it only to protect the Kupari. They call us queens, but what we really are is servants.”

The plot also captivated me straight from the beginning. Fine is a master of setting the stage without giving an info-dump in the middle of the story, and there was rarely a dull moment. Admittedly, I’m not good at guessing plot twists but each revelation came to me as a surprise, and when we learned a bit more about the history of the Kupari, it came as a horror-filled shock to me and left that (much wanted) sickening feeling in my stomach.

The magic system was interesting and behaved like fictional magic systems ought to: it wasn’t all-powerful, it had limitations, and it wasn’t the end all and be all of everything, so it made dire situations seem, well, dire. I think it was also the nature of the characters—I wasn’t ever sure who’s good and who’s bad until the very end, so I was kept guessing for at least 80% of the book.

“Remember who you are. Realize what you are. Do both those things, or you’ll either be completely useless-or too dangerous to help anyone.”

My only major criticism is that the pace slowed down a little bit during the middle, when Elli was in the outlands. The romance came into play a bit more, and while I liked Oskar, Elli’s love interest, I have to say that I didn’t particularly care whether or not they’ll end up together — I just wanted Elli to be safe and happy, with or without him.

Equipped with an interesting, likeable protagonist and an unpredictable cast of supporting characters, and an intense plot, The Impostor Queen was highly entertaining. Recommended for YA fantasy fans in general! 🙂

13 thoughts on “Book Review: The Impostor Queen – Sarah Fine

  1. Admittedly, I gave this book a pass at first because the cover put me off haha. However, after reading this review I must say I am definitely willing to give it a chance. I loved the quote you posted about being the caretakers of the magic and I love that we don’t have a case of the info dump. I’m intrigued by the limitations of this magic because I feel like this is something that isn’t really highlighted in a lot of magic driven books. Basically, I am sold on this book and I’ll be rushing to add it to my to be read pile. 😀

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    • Haha, totally understandable. 😛

      Yeah, I really liked the relationship the characters have with the magic, especially those that were chosen to bear it. They view it as a burden but also necessary, and that was an interesting dynamic because I feel like in YA specifically, the magic tends to be a given and not really explained. I hope you enjoy the book!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This book sounds really interesting, I’m definitely going to have to pick it up soon.
    I’d read and loved Sarah Fine’s other series but I think I was a bit on the fence about The Imposter Queen, obviously hearing you really enjoyed it has made me want to read it even more now as well!

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    • This is actually my first Sarah Fine book and I’m really liking it! I think there’s a focus on magic here that many YA fantasy books don’t really delve into, and I really enjoyed that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think Sarah Fine is a brilliant author, I’m glad to hear The Imposer Queen kind of follows that trend 🙂
        That actually sounds interesting, there are a lot of YA now that tend to either focus on the action or the romance. I think a book focusing on the magic will be interesting!

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  3. I totally agree with you about the romantic angle with Oskar–not too into it :/
    The best thing in the book was definitely Elli’s story and her inquisitive and sweet character.

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    • Yeah, he was sweet, but I didn’t think he was amazing or anything, you know? But I really liked Elli, and I really liked the whole Valtia concept, so I pressed on with the book and boy I’m glad I did!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] Upon Reg’s recommendation, I finished this book over the weekend and I thought the magic system was so unique and unlike anything I have ever read, so of course I had to share this book with all of you! […]

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