heidi's Reviews > The Hedgewitch Queen

The Hedgewitch Queen by Lilith Saintcrow
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Feb 28, 12

bookshelves: reviewed
Read on February 27, 2012

Vianne is a pampered princess in all but name. She is the princesse's agemate and favored lady-in-waiting, and a Duchesse in her own right. She is both a friend and a counselor. Her life in constrained, but not bad, until everything goes to heck.

She is caught up in a coup and forced to flee the palace carrying a magic talisman. She spends her whole time scared spitless and dealing with survivor's guilt, but as much as she has been trained to be frail and cossetted, she does manage to get herself going when she needs to.

I can certainly see how some readers will be annoyed by her constant desire not to be who the fates are conspiring for her to be, but I think that for someone trained to be a lady, it is probably a pretty huge transition to become a leader. To move from keeping track of romances because they matter in the world of gossip to keeping track of alliances and the world of diplomacy is a pretty big scale change.

I really appreciated how much Vianne gave up and had to grow up over the course of the book. She couldn't afford to be uncritical of anyone. The King, her princesse, everyone she met needed to be evaluated or re-evaluated in light of her new roles and duties. Does her Captain of Guards love her? Was the King bleeding the country? Are her new allies just using her? She can't afford to be trusting, although she does attempt to hang on to kindness as much as possible.

She is not the sturdiest heroine. She has migraines. She spends much of the book dragged down by a fever. She cries a lot. I am pretty sure I would not cut a stoic figure if you dragged me two weeks by horse when I was suffering from the loss of all I had known. I am inclined to forgive her that, although it is an interesting authorial choice to make her so frail and yes, a bit whiny. I don't think it was an accident, so I want to think about what it means to be a heroine without being strapping.

Possibly the best part of the book was the worldbuilding. Everything from the matrilineal descent to the two kinds of magic to the pantheon of gods was interesting and thought-through. I enjoyed the puzzle of figuring out who was what, and it was sometimes highly amusing, like the Pruzian Knives (ninjas!).

I think the weakest part of the book was that sometimes you wanted to shake Vianne for not trusting herself. Once, she makes a decision against strenuous advice, and ends up saving herself, but then promises not to go against advice again. You were right, Vianne! Have some faith!

I thought the captain of the guard and the bandit king were both compellingly interesting, each with his own flaws and strengths. Tristan (the captain) is pretty humorless, but he has his reasons.

On the whole, I am looking forward to the sequel.

Read if: you like palace intrigue. You enjoy watching people have greatness thrust upon them.
Skip if: a whiny heroine is going to bother you. You want an uncomplicated happily ever after.
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