There are six different types of spirits in Aratay (wood, earth, water, ice, fire, and air), and they have murderous feelings towards the land’s residents. However, the people’s queen is responsible for keeping them in check. Because of this, Aratay goes to great lengths to train new heirs. Any girl can be an heir, so young girls who show promise with controlling and communicating with spirits are enrolled in a school that trains both their powers and their demeanors. Trained young women are useful in protecting the land, even if they do not becoming queen. So, after Daleina’s hometown was attacked by rogue spirits when she was young, she made a promise to hone her powers and use them to protect others. What the people of Aratay do not know is that these rogue spirit attacks may not be rare incidents and that their queen may be faltering.
Overall, I quite liked this YA novel, which is something that I haven’t been able to say for a while, partly because I haven’t read much YA lately, and partly because there have been so many run-of-the-mill YA fantasy novels in the past few years that just don’t stand out. I would say that this book has unique aspects and doesn’t really fall into many tired YA tropes. For example, the main character is fallible and is even quite unskilled with her control of her powers. She’s not the typical female protagonist that rises to the top because she’s just that good naturally. And unlike some recent YA fantasy novels, Daleina’s plain yet somehow beautiful looks aren’t constantly described, and she doesn’t get caught up in a romance that dominates the plot. (There’s some romance, but it isn’t like some novels that are romances masquerading as a fantasy story.) Some of the other main or second tier characters were written well enough, but many side characters were rather forgettable. For example, I wish there had been a little more time with Daleina and her friends in the academy, and you may feel the same if you really enjoy magical school settings with a large, developed cast. I didn’t feel very connected to the other students, and I can’t really remember their names or descriptions either. Since this is a series, I imagine that several characters will get more expansion in the rest of the books though.
I would say that the plot and world building are the main draws in this series. As I talked about a little already, the magic is interesting, but since it is element-based it’s nothing too ground breaking. I loved the forest setting though. I enjoyed how the tree dwellings and wooden bridges between homes were described. How the characters traveled through the forests and made their lives within the trees was inventive and often cozy to read about. I also think that the fact that the people live snuggly within a forest filled with killer spirits is an intriguing dynamic. Getting back to the plot, it has some neat reveals, and some of the mysteries kept me turning the pages, but I didn’t always like the pacing. At one point it felt like a chapter ended with Daleina completing her first day at the academy and the next chapter was two years into her schooling. There’s a lot of plot packed into this fairly short first book, but I wouldn’t have minded some smoother transitions and further building of the characters in between everything else that happened.
I’d give The Queen of Blood three and a half our of five stars. There were areas that I felt were lacking, but it stands out a bit in a sea of subpar YA fantasy novels produced in the last decade. I do wish that the title was more unique since we all know that there are many, many similar sounding YA titles out there. But since I own the rest of the series, I may continue it because it was an easy, enjoyable, and quick read.