The Queen of Blood


Sarah Beth Durst


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

April 28, 2019

here is an abundance of fantasy novels being published now, and that's terrific. Plenty of new authors and new ideas - but it is hard to sift through the derivative fiction and find original stories and great writing. I am not sure how I managed to pick Durst's The Queen of Blood from the huge selection of available offerings, but clearly I made a good choice.

In the ancient world, people believed that there were many small gods living in most of the objects they encountered in everyday life. There was a spirit in that rock, a dryad lived in that tree, a naiad inhabited that river. Durst has invented a world in which there truly are tree, river, wind and fire spirits. These spirits have magical powers, but unfortunately, they are implacably hostile to the humans that dwell among them. The humans must always be prepared to be assaulted by the spirits. Some humans can weave charms that will repel the spirits, but mostly people rely on the Queen of Renthia. The Queen of the country has the ability to control the spirits - she can command them to construct, she can tell them to attack, but mostly, the spirits are told to leave the Queen's subjects alone. However, the Queen's power is not absolute, her attention cannot be everywhere in her kingdom, and sometimes the spiteful spirits will attack a human village.

In the beginning of the novel, the village of a young girl named Daleina is attacked and most of the inhabitants killed. Daleina's family is spared, due to luck, or perhaps due to some latent ability of Daleina's to control the spirits. In the aftermath of the attack, one of the Queen's champions, a man named Ven, arrives at the scene. Ven is too late to fight the spirits, but he notices Daleina's talent, and soon Daleina is reluctantly being escorted back to the capital, Mittriel, where she will enter the training academy to learn about magic and controlling spirits.

It seems like a standard component of fantasy novels now, where the protagonist attends a school to learn how to wield magic. Think of the Harry Potter series or The Name of the Wind or A Wizard of Earthsea or The Magicians, magic academies are central to the narrative. However, there is generally little explanation of how the magic actually works. Students try and fail, and learn to try harder. Magic seems to be simply wanting something hard enough, and being strong and determined is enough to generate the magic result. Durst doesn't offer much in the way of original ideas for magic, it is her characterization and plotting that are her strengths.

Although reigning Queen Fara is young and strong, it is imperative that she has a designated heir. Because if the Queen ever falls, there must be someone to ascend to the throne to resume control over the spirits. As a student of the the academy, Daleina is theoretically eligible to become the Queen, but her obvious lack of ability means that she has no realistic chance of rising to power, unlike her brilliant friend Merecot, who displays a natural talent in the magical realm. Much of this novel deals with Daleina's time in the capital, as she learns to control magic and interact with the various characters at the academy.

Naturally, there are plot surprises and unexpected magical events. Daleina has a bigger role to play in the fate of Renthia than she imagines. I liked this novel, and will try to get the next book in the trilogy to see what happens next. This book is recommended.