Anna's Reviews > The Hedgewitch Queen

The Hedgewitch Queen by Lilith Saintcrow
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Mar 26, 12

bookshelves: fantasy
Read from March 09 to 12, 2012

I'm sitting here with some very mixed feelings about this one. The book was pretty compulsively readable, and I stayed up way past my bedtime at least once because I was busy reading reading reading. Most of the major plot twists were predictable, but the foreshadowing was done in such a way that I think I was supposed to know what was going on before the heroine did. Vianne isn't necessarily the most reliable narrator, which I'll talk about more in a minute, but I do think the reader is meant to be expecting the plot twists and to watch Vianne struggle with them rather than be shocked with her.

But for someone as smart as the book kept telling me Vianne was supposed to be, she was pretty obtuse a lot of the time. Despite the fact that several people outright told her Tristan was in love with her, she remained unaware of his interest until halfway through the book. She was meant to be good at figuring out intrigues after having spent so much time in court, but she didn't spend much time reading into implications or deeper meanings when the people around her spoke, or even bother to ask questions most of the time. Rarely has a heroine frustrated me so much. Not only was she blind to everything, she's very very passive for most of the novel. For more than 100 pages, she's so sick she can't get out of bed. Our heroine, ladies and gentlemen, the protagonist who's allegedly driving the plot, spends more time in bed than out of it, and we're not looking at an erotic story. Towards the final third of the book she does start to grow a spine and start doing things for herself, but by that point I was already so annoyed with her passivity it was just too little too late.

Also, I'm very very tired of heroines who think they're plain but everyone around them thinks they're epitome of beauty. Why can't she be aware of her attractiveness? Presumably she's seen a mirror, or at the very least has had people compliment her. Just because a young woman is aware she has physical charms doesn't mean she's vain or shallow, it means she's aware of reality and far less tiresome than someone who protests too much.

She did have a few lines that made me grin, largely the prejudices that a lady of the court would carry. There are some great details in the book, and the worldbuilding is just the right balance of something solid enough to conceivably carry these characters and their problems without growing too complex to allow a reader to slip right in. It helps that the world is essentially a skewed version of European history, with Arquitaine as a pseudo-France, in the manner of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books (if they went on a serious diet). Saintcrow takes a lot of French words and adjusts them, using terms such as "vilhain" or "m'dama," and I had to wonder why she didn't just use the actual French terms.

I did, however, like Tristan a lot. Because we only see him through Vianne's eyes, we see at best a distorted view of him, but a dedicated and competent man with a dark secret is pretty appealing. He also keeps the plot going while Vianne is too busy being weak and/or sick, and the fact that he's the narrator and protagonist of the upcoming sequel, The Bandit King, makes me far more likely to read it than I would be if Vianne were going to remain the voice.
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