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Friday, August 14, 2009

'Thorn Queen' by Richelle Mead


Eugenie Markham has a lot on her plate. She has recently taken over a gentry Kingdom after killing its former tyrannical ruler. With the monarchy comes responsibility - her subjects need help making her Tucson-replica land hospitable. A band of ruffians/demons are causing havoc on the kingdom's outskirts. Young women are going missing from the villages on her land... and on top of all that, gentry men are still trying to get into her pants and fulfill the prophecy that says Storm King's daughter will bear a great gentry King. Never mind that Eugenie's kitsune boyfriend is going to become baby daddy to his ex-girlfriend and fellow Queen, Maiwenn. Or that King Dorian is proving to be a real temptation...

This is the second book in, what is probably, Richelle Mead's least popular Urban Fantasy series. The 'Vampire Academy' books have completely blown-up since the 'Twilight' craze (never-mind that they kick Meyer's booty when it comes to YA vampire romance!) and her very popular 'Georgina Kincaid' adult series just had it's 4th book released this year, with plans for several more before the series concludes.
Mead's 'Dark Swan' series hasn't yet got the same fan-base that 'Kincaid' and 'VA' has... but that doesn't mean it's not as good, if not occasionally better, than her other series.

I think Richelle Mead is an Urban Fantasy Goddess - and without a doubt one of the genre's darlings. She can do no wrong, and is incapable of writing a bad book. For me she is one of those instant-pre-order authors. Whatever she writers, I pre-order on Amazon, no questions asked. One of the reasons I love Richelle Mead is the characters she writes. No matter if they are a shaman Queen or despondent succubus, Mead creates flawed and funny protagonists who make mistakes, get their hearts broken (repeatedly, in some cases!) and roll with the punches. Despite the Fantasy world the live in, her character's deal with very real and very human problems that allow the reader to empathize and relate, no matter how fantastical the characters may be otherwise. Despite her Queenly status and half-gentry blood, as a reader we can relate to Eugenie's relationship problems with Kiyo - from wanting more foreplay, to sensing a distance between them as they react differently to Eugenie's problems. That's what makes Richelle Mead's series' so addictive - as fun and rollicking as the mysteries and whodunnit's woven in the plot, it's the human element that draws us back.

In 'Thorn Queen' Eugenie goes through quite a personality change. It stems from extenuating circumstances and inner shifts. Such as the way she regards the gentry race in general now that she is ruling over a section of them. It is a maturing, and fascinating to read unfold. Just as interesting is her accumulating and mastering her storm magic. It is both empowering and frightening as Eugenie's thirst for power and knowledge bring her closer and closer to her Storm King heritage.

I loved this book (no big surprise, I love all of Richelle Mead's stuff). The 'Dark Swan' series may not be quite on-par with 'Georgina Kincaid' and 'Vampire Academy'... yet ... but Richelle Mead is one of the front-runner's in the Urban Fantasy genre, and I think it's only a matter of time before her popularity ensures her backlist becomes as popular as her other series.

Thorn Queen - 4.5/5

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