Review: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

Series: The Impostor Queen #1

the impostor queen -sarah fineSixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

3 Drink Me Potions

“Our lives aren’t ours, darling. We are only the caretakers of this magic. They call us queens, but what we really are is servants.”

The Impostor Queen was surprisingly borderline entertaining to me. I had higher hopes for it, but I shall do my best to break down what I enjoyed and what potentially gave me pause.

The world building was uniquely done, albeit a bit vague in certain areas.What? you may ask. I’ll clarify what I mean in a second.

The Kupari people have a queen – known as the Valtia – that has an unequaled power in all the realm. It’s made of a balance of both fire and ice magic. When she dies, this strong magic doesn’t fade from existence with her. Oh no, it transfers to another girl, thus making her the next Valtia.

The whole idea of the Valtia and the way fire and ice magic exists in varying quantities (whether balanced or not) among the peoples was very interesting. Different and, at least to my knowledge of books, not very overdone in the YA genre. Fine does a great job of going into detail about fire wielders and ice wielders, and what happens when they are unbalanced with a whole lot more of one type of magic.

But here’s where the vague part comes in. The magic element is ALL that Fine focuses on. Yes, it takes up a huge part of the plot and it makes sense to explore this part of her world, but whenever there’s a pretty map drawn out of the world with other places marked on it, well it’s just natural to want to hear about those others places too, right? But oh no, none of those places were really mentioned beyond in passing. And nearer to the end, there are certain questions brought to light about magic that just fizzled into nothing before answering them. I’m not sure if they’re planned to be answered in the sequel, but since I don’t feel very strongly for this novel, I’m not too picky about it.

I think you can already tell that this review’s starting to take a bit more of a sour note. I will start with the characters.

Elli, the protagonist, initially frustrated me to no end. She was naive, spoiled and sheltered. Her curiosity about magic and her future role as the Valtia was understandable, but something about her just grated on my nerves. I’m glad she grows as the story progresses. As she learns to fend for herself for the first time in her life outside of the temple, I rejoiced with her in her tiny victories. And I do mean tiny victories. From learning to wear a dress to grating corn to sewing worn through clothes, she bore each new task with a tired but triumphant smile. This was the kinda girl I could stand behind.

Then there was the love interest. Fine downplays it a lot, and never once does she ever voices it out for what it is, but Elli’s first love was her handmaiden, Mim. I’ve never read a book with a bisexual main character so it was a different experience. Fine doesn’t let it define Elli, for which I’m glad. She’s more than who she may be attracted to. Anyway, Mim’s not even the real love interest anyway.

Enter Oskar. Oh, Oskar. He barreled into the book right where I was starting to get exhausted with the slow pacing of it all. Talk about perfect timing. He’s similar to a lot of male leads of fantasy stories such as this. He’s brave, strong but honorable. So of course I really liked him, maybe even more so than Elli.

Their romance wasn’t fast, yet it was also rather slow. I don’t necessarily enjoy insta-love attraction, but this slow burn was a little TOO slow. Like it took forever to boil over and be ready. I almost couldn’t comprehend their passion for each other near the end since I hardly FELT the heat between them. Sure, there can be compassion but that’s a different thing. Over time they started trusting each other with their secrets. But the depths of their “love” didn’t quite hit me.

Don’t get me wrong. I still liked Oskar and Elli together. I think they truly do balance each other out (haha, that’s a reference joke), but a romance is always more enjoyable when I feel the intensity of it like it’s pressing into my own heart.

Oskar was also more than just the “love interest”. He’s cooler than that. He’s also special in his own way – of which I can’t tell you without ruining some things. And he’s not the only one. As these special characters’ lives collide together due to the events happening, things get slightly more exciting knowing that their destinies were fated in the stars long before they were anything more than dust and ash. If this gets your heart racing at the sound of it…..well, I hate to ruin your excitement, but it takes a while to get to this point in the book.

As I mentioned quickly in the above, the pacing was slooooowwwww. The first several chapters are pretty much expected due to the synopsis. On one hand, this made the world building a little more easily understood as it gave it time to explain itself a bit more, but it could also bore you out before you even got to the good parts.

The plot is only saved when things really start packing heat (and ice!) right near the climax of the story. Unfortunately, that means the story ends with not-quite a cliffhanger, but many questions and major plotlines still left hanging unresolved. It’s good there’s gonna be a sequel, but I’m not sure how I feel that Elli and Oskar aren’t going to be playing major roles. All in all, The Impostor Queen wasn’t as great as my initial expectations had elevated it, but its unique premise makes up a bit for it.

Overall Recommendation:
The Impostor Queen packed a punch with its world of fire and ice magic, and those that are fated to wield such power. Elli was set to inherit the strongest of such power, but when things somehow go awry, she had to learn to deal with a world that literally just turned upside down on her. I initially disliked her a bit, but her growth in self confidence and power in her own way redeemed her in my eyes. With a male lead and love interest that’s equally (if not more) interesting to see grow and develop, I think these characters help make up for the slow pacing. Great powers are rising as this world created by Fine comes to the brink of war. There’s a lot of potential for greatness. This grain of greatness starts here in The Impostor Queen and hopefully it’ll bloom into something more breathtaking in the next one. If you can keep this bigger picture in mind, I think it’ll make the reading of it go by faster

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