Alex at Raiding Bookshelves's Reviews > Queens of All the Earth

Queens of All the Earth by Hannah Sternberg
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Jul 13, 2012

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bookshelves: 2011-200-book-challenge, reviewed, daily-recommendation, arc, favourites, reviewed-2011, netgalley
Read from February 12 to 15, 2011

Original Language: English
Publisher: Bancroft Press
Country: USA
Publication Date: June 15 2011
ISBN: 9781610880190
Page Count: 160
eARC provided by NetGalley

Hannah Sternberg's debut novel is a thrilling coming-of-age adventure where control is taken over by the whimsical and imagination moves in leaps and bounds. Queens of All the World is the story of sisters Olivia and Miranda, separated by more than just age. Olivia is unwilling to release the wonder of her childhood while Miranda believes herself beyond it's call.

Queens of All the Earth is an outstanding first book, one that will capture hearts with it's elaborate but gentle prose and exquisite descriptions of Barcelona. Written in the third person, Sternberg keeps her characters at a distant, leaving the reader on the wrong side of the Looking Glass. Her prose is beautiful and the fanciful detail given to Barcelona's country side (dragon teeth) creates a magical background.

Olivia is sweet and fanciful, a fragile flower compared to her organised, no nonsense and over protective sister Miranda. With chapter titles like "Motionless, Forgetful, Where" the reader is offered a brief insight into the complexity of Olivia's vulnerability. From Olivia's delicacy; her uncertainty over growing older and her grief over the death of her father; Sternberg weaves a tale of growth and maturity that any reader can empathise with.

It is Olivia's fear of losing her childhood, and her connection with her childhood favourites, like A Wrinkle in Time, that makes her an accessible character. In an article on children's literature C.S Lewis argued that reading 'children's books' as an adult signifies growth, as the individual comes to appreciate more from their world while still appreciating their past. Instead of giving up that past, they add to it. In Queens, Olivia's fears of letting go of her childhood are softened by an acceptance that there is more in the world for her to appreciate. For Miranda it was the opposite, she needed to learn that her childhood was a part of her, and to accept it in order to grow.

The one thing I waited for, that never happened, was for Olivia to get tired of Miranda's mothering. As a young adult myself, having one mother hovering is enough, there are times when you must accept responsibility for yourself. Miranda's over protectiveness was crushing Olivia's sweetness, and it agitated me. It wasn't until the finale, when Miranda learns to let go and let Olivia live, that I started to appreciate her character. (What I wanted Olivia to say to Miranda)

Queens of All the Earth was an amazing debut novel for Hannah Sternberg. It had a sweetness and a purity that I have rarely come across in YA fiction. Instead of focusing on the trivialities of lust, sex and peer pressure, Sternberg created an amazing coming-of-age story that reminded me of Perks of Being a Wallflower in its sincerity.


Judging by the cover: Having never been to Barcelona, I can only assume the building on the cover is one of the beautiful examples of architecture visited by the sisters in the book. Perhaps the bell tower atop the church where Olivia encounters Greg and his Father. The cover has a degree of whimsy, but isn't stand out.

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