Queen of the World by Ben Hennessy is a fantasy novel following the plight of a young girl torn from her peaceful home and forced to flee those who would hunt her based on the words of a prophecy.
The world lives in relative peace in fear of the Four, elders of legend who possess strong magical powers. These Four are rumoured to be long since deceased, but it is said that they will always return if the peace of the world is threatened. So far this has deterred potential tyrants from starting major wars in an attempt to take over other regions, but the balance could soon be disturbed.
A young girl called Sarene is supposed to be a threat to the peace, a sixteen year old that lives a sheltered life in a quiet village with her family. She definitely doesn’t seem like a threat to anyone, especially as she is a mute and finds her own unique ways of communicating via hand signals and facial expressions. Sarene shares a particularly close bond with her brother, Jared, who is a member of the military on a short home visit to his family.
It is when Jared leaves that Sarene decides to have an adventure of her own, wanting to return a military pin that Jared has left behind. She sneaks out alone, seeking a bit of freedom from her daily routine, soon making the acquaintance of Kanderil, a hunter roaming the forest. He is ex-military and the reader sees him successfully deter a group of thieves from attacking him, immediately showing his strong capabilities.
He offers Sarene his protection to escort her back to her family, but it becomes clear that the journey home will not be the end of their acquaintance. This is because her family has been attacked in her absence by Gathire, a military force for hire who are seeking Sarene. Not knowing the reason for this attack, or why the Gathire are hunting her, Kanderil is forced to take Sarene on the run, determined to protect her from the many groups that hunt her.
One of these foes comes directly from the Four, a creature called Spasmodic who has been created for the purpose killing Sarene. However, this creature is not what it seems as it has been given the free will to choose who it kills, leaving the reader unsure of how trustworthy it is and where its loyalties lie. The determination of the hunters implies that Sarene is a threat to the Four, and it soon becomes clear how much of a difference she could make to the world…
This book was a fantastic read, as I was unable to put it down and was really intrigued to know what would happen to Sarene and why she was so important to those that were hunting her. Hennessy also succeeds in producing some shocking moments throughout Sarene’s journey to keep the reader hooked, and I loved Spasmodic’s sense of humour as he manages to make light of any situation that arises.
As a main character, Sarene was really well written, as her inability to speak instantly removes the conventional ways for an author to communicate her emotions. Despite this, it was still easy to empathise with her and to understand her feelings about what was happening, especially her confusion at why she was being pursued.
Kanderil was an interesting character to accompany Sarene, as he takes on an almost fatherly protector role, feeling obligated to take care of her for as long as he is needed. His military training makes him a force to be reckoned with, and his harsh exterior is slowly changed by Sarene as he begins to let his guard down around her. He likes to keep to himself, and his secretive nature means more could be revealed about him in future books.
As for the plot of this book, I loved the journey that Sarene goes on, as she becomes a stronger character and I can’t wait to see how she further develops once her ability is revealed to the reader. I didn’t give his book a full five stars as it partly felt like this book was world building for the sequel, but the plot was still strong and I loved the characters. As a reader I loved the fact that you could never tell which characters were wholly trustworthy, and also loved that the book doesn’t just focus on the protagonists, but on other characters too. Needless to say I am anxiously anticipating the next book in the series and expect great things from this author!
I loved this book and thought that it was brilliant for a debut novel, as Hennessy’s main characters each have their own individual personalities but work really well as a leading trio. I particularly loved how well Sarene’s emotions are communicated to the reader despite her being a mute, as I hadn’t seen this in a protagonist before and was interested to see how it would work. Hennessy’s writing style succeeded in being witty and clever and I look forward to his next book.
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