Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thorn Queen, by Richelle Mead

I recently compiled a list of things to include in reviews, and things I like in books, so I thought I'd try writing a review using these new criteria.

WARNING: Thorn Queen is book 2, so if you haven't read Storm Born, beware of spoilers!

From the website:
"Eugenie Markham is a shaman for hire, paid to bind and banish creatures from the Otherworld. But after her last battle, she’s also become queen of the Thorn Land. It’s hardly an envious life, not with her kingdom in tatters, her love life in chaos, and Eugenie eager to avoid the prophecy about her firstborn destroying mankind. And now young girls are disappearing from the Otherworld, and no one—except Eugenie—seems willing to find out why.

Eugenie has spilled plenty of fey blood in her time, but this enemy is shrewd, subtle, and nursing a very personal grudge. And the men in her life aren't making things any easier. Her boyfriend, Kiyo, is preoccupied with his pregnant ex, and sexy fey king Dorian always poses a dangerous distraction. With or without their help, Eugenie must venture deep into the Otherworld and trust in an unpredictable power she can barely control. Reluctant queen or not, Eugenie has sworn to do her duty—even if it means facing the darkest—and deadliest—side of her nature…"

I love so much about Richelle's writing style, so I was delighted to get Thorn Queen the other day. Maybe it's slightly unfair to start with this one, then, because for me it ticks all the boxes of 'what makes a good book'.
I'll start with the characters. Eugenie, the narrator, is very believable, and it feels like every time she talks to someone, that secondary character is stepping onto the page with a fully-formed background behind them. These characters are realistic. I loved the first meeting with Dorian in this book - in that one, brief, conversation, he manages to remind us everything about him, and shows how much of an effect he has on Eugenie, even if she wants to deny it.
In this book, she's trying to come to terms with the fact that she has to live with this kingdom, and see how her actions affect it. She's also trying to keep up her work in the human world, and although she manages it for now, I can't see her sticking with it in the future. This is another thing I like about these books - Eugenie is constantly developing, but it's done subtly enough that you don't always notice it.
The plot is excellent. I was pulled in in the first chapter, where we get to see a little of Eugenie doing her 'normal' work, and banishing a ghost. Then, it's back home, where the issues with her boyfriend, Kiyo, are brought up. And I was firmly hooked with the last line of chapter one: "I was going to a gentry baby shower." The pace keeps up throughout the story. In 'Sucubus Blues', the first of Richelle's books I read, the main character only reads 5 pages a day of books by her favourite author, to make them last longer. I'm not that optimistic, so I aimed to keep this to a chapter a day, but unfortunately, I gobbled through it in two days. I just couldn't put it down, even though I knew that I'd have to wait months once I finished to get the next book.
The ending is satisfying too - it ties up the main issues in Thorn Queen, but other things that I think will span the series have to wait for the next book to show the next piece of the puzzle.
Woven into the plot is the sizzling romance between Eugenie & Kiyo, the various tensions there, and Dorian's charm and, for want of a better term, general sexiness. Eugenie has to spend more time with him for political reasons, and I love any scene where the three of them are together, because the dialogue gets quite... interesting.

Overall, I think this book has to get 9 stars, if not 10. Ah, stuff it, I'll give it 10, because I'm not sure what would have improved this book!


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