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Book review: 'The Hundredth Queen' immerses readers in fantasy world and intrigue

Posted May 24

"THE HUNDREDTH QUEEN," by Emily R. King, Skyscape, $9.99, 324 pages (f) (ages 13 and up)

Emily R. King's debut young adult fantasy novel, "The Hundredth Queen," plunges readers into a fantasy world full of love, betrayal, rebellion and magic.

Orphaned 18-year-old Kalinda has spent her life with the Sisterhood in the Samiya Temple, where she and other girls are trained to fight in preparation for the Claiming. However, Kalinda is an unlikely candidate to become a rani or courtesan because she's been plagued by fevers her whole life. Neither Kalinda nor her best friend Jaya wish to be Claimed; they are content to live a peaceful life in the Sisterhood, yet are committed to the will of the gods.

But when the powerful tyrant Rajah Tarek visits the Sisterhood, Kalinda is chosen as his 100th — and final — wife. She is ripped from Jaya and the only life she has known and plunged into a world where her submission to the rajah is mandatory and any violation is punishable by death.

Escorted by a kind, attractive guard, Captain Devin Naik, Kalinda feels the beginnings of forbidden love. As she and Devin work to suppress their feelings, Kalinda discovers she may not be sickly after all, but instead possesses strong, yet prohibited, powers.

Kalinda not only doesn't want to marry Rajah Tarek, but is also bothered by the subservient lives she and the other wives and courtesans are forced to live — their bodies, their wills and their lives are not their own. Each wife is subject to rank tournaments where the wives and courtesans battle to the death to advance in rank and fight for the crown.

When Jaya's and Devin's safety is compromised, Kalinda must survive the tournament and use her powers to fight against tradition and the empire to protect those she loves and gain her freedom.

Though loosely related to the Sumerian deities and the South Asian setting, the Parijana faith of the Tarachand Empire, characters and lifestyles are fictional.

King's fast-paced storytelling, splashed with romance, magic, danger, secrets and vivid characters, creates an enthralling read.

While intimacy does not go beyond kissing, some readers may be sensitive to the subservient nature to which the women are treated. Though it's not overly described, it sometimes involves nudity. Violence includes combat to the death and described injuries from beatings for disobedience. There is no foul language.

Wendy is a regular contributor for familyshare.com and does media reviews. Blog/website: https://survivorshopeandhealing.wordpress.com/ for victims of sexual abuse. Twitter: @WendyJessen Email: wendyjessen26@gmail

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