Genre: YA Fantasy
Medium: Kindle and Audible
Rating: 4/5 Stars
FROM THE BACK COVER:
He wanted a warrior queen. He got a revolutionary.
As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.
But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.
Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.
Emily King weaves together a beautiful and terrifying world in The Hundredth Queen. The main character, Kalinda, was orphaned at birth and raised as a ward of the Sisterhood, which is a mystical/fantasy version of a convent. Her world flips upside down, however, when she is selected as the Hundredth Queen for the emperor and all-around villain, Rajah Tarek (who undoubtedly has some major issues with women). There’s a catch, though: she has to fight for her spot against Tarek’s concubines, and it’s winner-takes-all. The losers die.
But Kalinda doesn’t want to be his queen. In fact, she finds him and the entire competition repulsive.
Kalinda has to survive, though, if for nothing else than to protect her sisterhood friend, whose fate still hangs in the balance. And so she fights.
The Hundredth Queen was a fast read for me. Set in an imaginary land a-la south Asia (which is kind of awkward since the author is not south-Asian and it’s a general fantasy hodgepodge of various cultures and religions), the world-building was really good and transported me to a spice-filled city full of color and danger. Her descriptions were beautiful and vivid, and I could picture everything in my head as she showed me, rather than told me, what to see. In addition, Kalinda was well-developed as a character with clear motivations and fears. I loved that she spoke out against and acted against the fantasy world’s cultural view of women. Even secondary characters were depicted with care with clear goals. I appreciated this. (I will say, however, that there should be more development of Brac’s character and his relationship with Deven. That part felt confusing and rushed.)
The biggest head-scratcher, however, was the romance between her and Captain Deven Naik, a guard assigned to protect her during her trip to the city and throughout the competition. It’s instalove. She seriously falls in love with the first man she’s ever seen, and it just seems a bit immature and undeveloped. She doesn’t necessarily have a reason to love him nor him to love her. It just sort of… happens. I really wish this part had been developed more, but this complaint definitely isn’t enough to keep me from reading the second book in the series. It’s still sweet to watch them learn about one another, even if they know that their romance is doomed. I really hope that this component of Kalinda and Deven’s character arcs is better fleshed out in the next book.
While I read most of the book via kindle, I listened on Audible to the first several chapters and LOVED the narrator’s voice. She really brought the story to life and added depth with her accent. It was perfectly done.
Overall, I’d give this book 4 stars. I look forward to seeing where Kalinda and Deven go from here.