Series: Twelve Kingdoms #3.6
on May 24th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website
Dafne Mailloux, librarian and temporary babysitter to the heirs to the High Throne of the Twelve – now Thirteen – Kingdoms, finds it difficult to leave the paradise of Annfwn behind. Particularly that trove of rare books in temptingly unfamiliar languages. But duty calls, and hers is to the crown. It’s not like her heart belongs elsewhere. But how can she crown a queen who hesitates to take the throne?
Jeffe Kennedy’s Talon of the Hawk made my “Best of 2015” list. I have adored every entry in her Twelve Kingdoms series, and was just a bit sad to see this epic fantasy series conclude last year, no matter how much I loved that conclusion. So I was pleased as punch when I was contacted to review The Crown of the Queen, a bridge novella between The Twelve Kingdoms and their continuation in The Uncharted Realms, which begins with The Pages of the Mind later this month.
When last we left our heroines, the war had just ended in a rather spectacular fashion. Princess Ursula had defeated the tyrant king Uorsin in single-combat, and the crown of the Twelve Kingdoms had just become hers. But Ursula, while she is picking up the reins of leadership, is unwilling to officially pick up the crown that she fought so hard for.
Uorsin was mad, ensorcelled and an utter bastard. Also tyrannical in a way that would fit right into Game of Thrones, complete with the bloody banquets. But he was also Ursula’s father, and she can’t seem to manage to forgive herself for killing him, no matter how utterly necessary his killing might have been.
And it was, after all, in single combat. It could easily have gone the other way, and Ursula was certainly fighting for her life, as well as the lives of everyone in the Twelve Kingdoms. A court of law would certainly call it self-defense.
But guilt is never logical, and Ursula is wallowing in it.
The heroine of this tale is Dafne Mailloux, the official and often disregarded librarian of the Twelve Kingdoms. Dafne, the daughter of a defeated kingdom, retreated to the library as a place of safety, in the hopes that the increasingly mad Uorsin would forget she existed.
His late queen entrusted the raising of her daughters, especially the future queen Ursula, to the young recluse. It was Queen Salena’s plan that Dafne would become her daughter’s high councilor in the future that she sacrificed herself to bring to pass. Now it is Dafne’s duty to bring some common-sense order out of the chaos that followed the death of the mad king.
And to, if necessary, shake some sense into his daughter. Dafne must take up her mantle, and deliver some unwelcome truths to the woman who must become High Queen – before the restless factions of the Twelve Kingdoms manage to shatter the kingdom back into its constituent parts.
Uorsin conquered the Twelve by ruthless war. The warrior-princess Ursula must learn to rule them with justice and law – before they get ahead of her and start ruling her.
Escape Rating A: I seldom give novellas an A rating. Not because I don’t enjoy them, but because the short length usually leaves me wanting something. The Crown of the Queen is an exception. Much as I might want to spend more time in the Twelve Kingdoms, this interlude does not need a full-length novel to tell its necessary tale. It would probably feel bloated if it were stretched to novel-length.
Dafne provides an excellent perspective on these events. She is at the center, but yet she stands a bit to one side. Her job is to provide advice and counsel, which requires that she keep a level head and a slightly outside point of view to do her job well. While she has been at the center of the court all her life, she is not a member of the royal family. Her job is to do the best she can for the kingdom and its people, often by telling the High Queen and the royal family things that they do not want to hear, no matter how much they might need to hear them.
We also have hints that Dafne’s own story will be bigger and more important some time later, but this is not her story. It is the story of Ursula’s coronation and the cementing of her place on the throne of the Twelve Kingdoms as they become Thirteen Kingdoms and probably Fourteen.
As Dafne herself says, they need a name that doesn’t involve numbers.
What we see in this story is Dafne negotiating events. It is up to her to get Ursula out of her funk and get her royal butt officially on the throne. With a lot of tough love, and help from Ursula’s partner Harlan, Dafne sets Ursula on the course to her coronation and all of the pomp and circumstance that must follow in order for Ursula’s reign to be seen as legitimate.
Dafne does a great job of making the machinations of politics seem not just interesting, but actually exciting. As a faithful reader of the series, I had tears in my own eyes during Ursula’s coronation ceremony.
Dafne’s deep knowledge of all the players in this drama helps her achieve her goals, and gives readers a great refresher on previous events at the same time. It marvelously whets the appetite for the epic story that is to come.