A Queen in Hiding


Sarah Kozloff


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

April 27, 2020

saw the A Queen in Hiding on the "new arrivals" shelf at the library. I picked it up, looked at the back cover. Then I put back on the shelf - I had never heard of the book or the author. But something made me pick up again, and then check it out. I thought I would never get around to reading it; I check out more books from the library than I can possibly read (I can't explain why). Then came the coronavirus lockdown, and the library was closed for months. No new books could be checked out, no books could be returned. Which meant that I did get around to reading this book after all, and I am glad that I did. I wish I could go back the library and check out the next book in the series.

If one just stuck to the established authors (Abercrombie, Sanderson, Kay, McKillip, Novik, etc), there is more quality fantasy and science fiction novels being published than anyone can possibly read. Yet it is still satisfying to "discover" a new author writing surprisingly good books. Just recently, I have enjoyed the Winternight Trilogy by Arden, The Risen Kingdoms by Craddock, The Queens of Renthia trilogy by Durst, and the amazing works of Robert Jackson Bennett. Oh, and the Books of Babel by Bancroft. You get the idea - lots of great books by new authors. Now Kozloff joins the party with her Nine Realms series. I am always impressed when a first novel is this good - is Kozloff really a penname of an established author?

A Queen in Hiding is the story of Cerúlia, the princella of the realm of Weirandale. Her mother is Queen Cressa, and all of the queens have had a unique special magical talent - Queen Cressa can touch someone and enchant them - make them forget something, or speak the truth. But despite being eight years old, Cerúlia has manifested no special talent. Which is concerning, because Cerúlia will be queen herself someday. Of course, there will be plenty of time for Cerúlia to grow into her ability, whatever it may be, because Queen Cressa herself is still young. Cressa assumed the throne when her powerful mother, Queen Catreena, perished unexpectedly. Queen Cressa is just beginning her reign, so she must rely on her trusted councillors.

Assassins sneak into the palace at night, but Cerúlia is awakened by her pet dogs and sounds the alarm. Bloodshed ensues, the members of the Queen's Shield (her personal bodyguards) thwart the attack. Queen Cressa ponders who might have sent the assassins - could it be the belligerent nation of Oromondo, which is currently in a trade dispute with Weirandale? Queen Cressa talks to her councillors, and realizes that she cannot trust them. There is treachery in the court, and Queen Cressa flees for her life, protected by her Shields and bringing Cerúlia with her. But Cerúlia must be safely hidden, she cannot join Cressa in exile, for the queen is about to embark on a desperate campaign to regain her throne. And so begins the first book of what looks to be an intriguing fantasy series.

Kozloff's world building in A Queen in Hiding is excellent. As is expected for any serious fantasy novel, there is a map of the Nine Realms on the first page. The different kingdoms have different cultures and different gods.

The characters are especially well drawn. They have plans and emotions and setbacks. The villains are not just stock bad-guys, they have motivations and their own concerns. Cerúlia is especially likable, as she struggles to remain hidden away in the remote village. Once royalty, Cerúlia now must act like a peasant to maintain her disguise. All though this plot device has been used in a thousand novels, Kozloff makes Cerúlia situation interesting and believable. It isn't all awful hardship, and it isn't all wonderful family.

There are a lot of characters in this book, scattered throughout the Nine Realms. But Kozloff keeps everyone distinct and memorable. I never started a new chapter and wondered "Oh, now who is this character?". There is enough action to keep up the pace. Kozloff is willing to kill off favored characters, so no one is certain to survive to the next book in the series. This adds to the tension in the plot. Overall, I liked this book a lot, and I wish I could get my hands on the next volume.