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The Queens of Renthia #1

The Queen of Blood

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An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

368 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 20, 2016

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About the author

Sarah Beth Durst

39 books2,566 followers
Sarah Beth Durst is the award-winning author of over twenty books for kids, teens, and adults, including Spark, Drink Slay Love, and The Queens of Renthia series. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA's Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of Princeton University and lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat. Visit her at sarahbethdurst.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,823 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,963 reviews294k followers
September 5, 2016
Don't trust the fire, for it will burn you.
Don't trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
Don't trust the water, for it will drown you.
Don't trust the air, for it will choke you.
Don't trust the earth, for it will bury you.
Don't trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead.

I did not expect to enjoy this book so much.

How many YA fantasy novels have I read that are called something like "The Queen of ____" or "The ____ Queen"? Too many. Way too many. How many feature a throne that is up for grabs and both a male and female POV? Pretty much all of them. Somehow, though, The Queen of Blood takes a familiar concept and does something that - for me - was completely different.

For one thing, I absolutely loved the setting. Aratay is a place where everything, every village, every city, is built on giant tree branches. Unlike the usual Medieval-style fantasy novels, this one is entwined with nature. The forests of this land are alive with spirits that represent the elements (as seen above in the rhyme) and the spirits are inherently evil and violent towards humans. However, some women have the ability to summon and control the spirits, to varying degrees.
Below her, above her, and all around her was the academy. It was a circle of trees whose trunks had been fused together into a ring and whose bark had been smoothed and polished to gleam like marble, a hollow tower with rooms within the walls. Spiral stairs ran up the inner ring, edged with ornate vine-coated banisters that looked like lace. On each level, the stairs produced a platform that cut into the air and also recessed into an archway that led into the interior of the tree.

This is pretty much how I picture this world:

In Aratay, the Queen controls all spirits and protects the citizens from their violence. Other women with the affinity are trained to be potential heirs to the throne so that Aratay is never left unprotected. However, as the story unfolds, it looks possible that the Queen may be losing control. The book starts with Daleina discovering her own ability when she saves her family from a spirit attack. The rest of her village perishes and she vows to become stronger and better so this tragedy will not happen again - therefore, she goes to the academy.

If this had been your average fantasy novel, there is no doubt that Daleina would have battled her way to the top, doing no wrong, being the best at everything, delivering empowering speeches and having a once-in-a-lifetime epic romance. Or three. But this is not that book.

Daleina is actually not the best. In fact, as potential heirs go, she's one of the worst. She gets through by using smarts and strategy instead of power and strength. Her attempts to control spirits often do not go as planned, but the underlying message seems to be that thoughtful consideration and hard work trump innate talent. And I kind of like that. She's not special, she just works really hard.

I found the story very compelling. Some things I saw coming, others not so much, but either way it was a difficult book to put down. The book moves from dramatic action scenes full of raging spirits to quieter, character-driven scenes between the female students. All of them were enjoyable. Though the two perspectives are the standard male and female POVs, they are not starcrossed lovers. In fact, Ven is a mentor and kind of father figure for Daeleina, and the small romantic subplot remains firmly in the background.

It's also extremely bloody and nasty, sometimes terrifying. Don't make the mistake of thinking that any character is safe - because the author is just the right amount of evil.

There's also so much female friendship. It is, in many ways, a matriarchal society and many of the characters are female. And though they are competing for a limited number of positions, they remain friends throughout. They support one another, encourage one another, and cheer for each others' successes. It's diverse in colour, sex-positive and contains no woman-hating. Jealousies exist, as they always do, but even the most talented, beautiful girl is not an enemy.
"They're jealous of me."
"No one is jealous of you." Daleina resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Sometimes Merecot got in these moods. Daleina was never sure if she meant it or not. Merecot never sounded upset, but she excelled at hiding her feelings.
"Except you."
"Except me, of course," Daleina said, "but it's not because of your incredible powers, or the fact that you're at the top of every single class."
"Oh, really?"
"It's because of your hair," Daleina said with a straight face. "You have the best hair."

The ending is a grisly combination of awful and perfect. I'm so excited about some of the things the author has set up in this book. A few things have been briefly mentioned that I know must surface in the sequel and, honestly, I cannot wait!!

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Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
611 reviews87.5k followers
February 13, 2017
This book was really cool! The magic system, how it centred around these different spirits and the ability to control and manipulate them, was very unique. The fact that they were based in the elements made them a bit less unique, but I really do enjoy elemental magic so I was still on board.
This book kind of crosses genres as it is considered both adult fantasy and young adult fantasy, I think mainly because the protagonist is quite young and she also goes to an academy for magic, which was awesome. Really this book's strength was in the fact that it had quite a few epic fantasy cliches but it was still able to use them originally. Also the protagonist was awesome. She wasn't perfect. Wasn't magically the best at everything, she actually kind of sucked but she showed strength in her perseverance. Side note: that ending broke my damn heart. SO CRUEL. SO BRUTAL.
For fans of: Throne of Glass, Falling Kingdoms, Game of Thrones (basically any brutal high fantasy)
Will I continue the series? Maybe! The cover of the next one has a dragon soooo probably
Should you read it? If you're a fan of high fantasy that is just ruthless and complex but interesting magic systems, definitely give this one a go.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
January 10, 2021
This is an adult/YA fantasy, the first in a new series. Full review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

The country of Aratay is inhabited not only by humans but by wild, deadly spirits whose nature and power derive from air, earth, water, fire, ice or wood. These spirits are hostile to humans, yet are vital to the land. When spirits are killed or their powers suspended, everything tied to the spirits’ power stops working: fires won’t light, winds won’t blow, plants won’t grow, rain won’t fall. So the humans live in an uneasy balance with Aratay’s spirits. Only the power of the Queen of Aratay and certain other women, who have an innate ability to control the spirits, keep them from killing all the people living in Aratay.

At a young age, Daleina discovers her ability to command the spirits when they attack her village. But Daleina’s power was only sufficient to barely protect her own family; everyone else in the village was murdered. Stung by her inability to do more, Daleina studies with a local hedgewitch for five years; then, at age fifteen, she enters the queen’s academy, where girls are trained to understand and deal with spirits, and their ability to command and control is honed. Unfortunately for Daleina, her powers are weak, especially compared to other girls in her class. But Daleina is determined to do what she can to help, especially since the spirits are becoming more uncontrollable and deadly. The best and brightest students at the academy are handpicked by older Champions to be trained as one of the potential heirs to the throne when the current queen dies. Daleina hopes ― against all likelihood based on her limited abilities to control the spirits ― that a Champion will choose her as she nears the end of her four year term at the academy.

The Queen of Blood also follows the path of Champion Ven through these years. Ven, one of the most respected of the Champions, was discredited by Queen Fara when he threatened to tell the council about the spirits’ attack on Daleina’s village and Fara’s failure to use her powers to stop it. Nevertheless, he continues to do his best to protect villages from malicious attacks of spirits. When the headmistress of the academy calls Ven in and asks him to begin training a new heir, Ven makes an unexpected choice.

In some ways The Queen of Blood follows the typical paths and devices of a young adult fantasy novel, with a main character that is developing and growing into her powers in order to achieve her destiny. But Sarah Beth Durst makes some unexpected choices along the way. In particular, Daleina is an unusual protagonist: she’s hardworking, studious and earnest, hobbled by the fact that she doesn’t have nearly the amount of natural power to command and control spirits that her classmates do ― especially Merecot, a supremely self-confident young woman with an ability to command spirits that exceeds all others at the academy. Daleina’s strengths lie in other areas: her sincerity of purpose, her understanding of what is ultimately important, and her focus on cooperating with others rather than competing with them. These aspects of her character become critical to her development as a person and as a potential heir to the throne.

Daleina and several of her classmates at the academy develop strong and supportive friendships, which isn’t always a strength in young adult fantasies. Even with Merecot, who’s convinced of her own superiority, The Queen of Blood doesn’t fall into the trap of making her a repellant person who cuts down everyone around her. Merecot has some unexpected depth, and makes a surprising choice at the academy that reverberates much later in the story.

The country of Aratay is richly imagined, with its arboreal society. Villages, the academy and even the capital city are built high in the enormous trees, connected by a network of rope ladders, bridges and zip-lines. There are some truly fearsome blind zip-lining experiences, where the characters need to detach from one line and attach to another while zipping along. Still, the trees are safer than the forest ground, where deadly earth spirits lurk.

The spirits themselves are vivid creations, in an innumerable variety of types and sizes, ranging from tiny fairy-like air spirits to massive earth spirits. One of my favorites was the air spirit that looks like a six-foot long white-furred ermine with black bat wings, and that can be talked into giving you a ride if you ask it in the right way. In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Durst charmingly explains how this world and the myriad spirits in it were born out of taped-together drawings of imaginary lands and the fantastical creatures that she doodled in the margins of her schoolbooks when she was a young girl (obviously we are kindred spirits: I have scrapbooks in which I’ve pasted the best of the drawings that I made while I was taking notes in high school and college classes).

The Queen of Blood is a little slow at times, but builds steadily to a compelling climax. In its best moments this fantasy reminded me of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, though it tells a quite different tale. It has some unusual and original world-building, characters and plot developments, including a truly startling ending that, while not a cliff-hanger, left me anxious to get hold of the next book in this series.

I received a free copy of this ebook from the publisher in exchange for a review. Thank you!
Profile Image for Maggie ☘.
534 reviews654 followers
February 9, 2019
“Don't trust the fire, for it will burn you.
Don't trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
Don't trust the water, for it will drown you.
Don't trust the air, for it will choke you.
Don't trust the earth, for it will bury you.
Don't trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead.”

The Queen of Blood was such a unique story among all the other fantasy books. The setting was largely what made the book so intersting - whole kingdoms (or rather queendoms?), villages, societies living in the trees. And dangerous wood and elemental spirits who are out for blood of all humans yet cannot be killed because the woods would die with them. The magic system was also something a bit different. I liked how the whole story was told to the readers - multiple POVs, with Deleina, the main character, starting out as little girl in a small village and ending with her as a woman. The pacing flowed swiftly and it was just all out enjoyable read! It was also pretty refreshing to read a book not focused on romantic plotline for once. There was actually almost zero romance, the story rather focused on Deleina and her training, girl friendship in the Academy and Deleina being trained by Champion Ven - who was probably one of my favourite characters in the book. I don't know why more people didn't pick up this book, because it's definitely worth the read if you're interested in an adventurous story (mesh up of adult and young adult fantasy) with imaginative setting and captivating storyline. Go pick this book up! It's woth it if you want to read a refreshing story with very unique fantasy world!

“Straight-faced, Hamon said, "I'm honored to be working alongside someone with such expert woodland knowledge, superior battle skills, and an impressive beard."
Ven stroked his beard. "Indeed you are.”
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
840 reviews3,768 followers
February 15, 2021

Truthfully, my love for The Queen of Blood has nothing to do with the uncanny similarities between Aratay and a Telvanni's town :


Or maybe I lied - maybe the magical settings captured my interest the very moment I read "clutching her rope, six-year-old Daleina slipped out her window and ran along the branches toward the grove", because why, thank you, give me tree houses whenever you feel like it, my inner child is glowing with bliss. Add some very nasty spirits to tear down flesh, and you'll create an equally beautiful and gruesome world I'm most likely to be drawn into.

What can I say, I have complex needs.

Easy enough? Think again. Indeed The Queen of Blood succeeds where so many YA Fantasy novels fail : in picturing a world where threats aren't gratuitous and villains Manicheans, where nobody's really ever safe and where the debate doesn't lie in counting the love-interest dimples.

First of all, Deleina is no all-powerful chosen one. From the moment she sets foot in the prestigious Academy that is supposed to make a Queen out of her, she fails. Repeatedly. Yet while every summoning test morphs into a belittling chore, she does not give up. She works hard. She's smart, compassionate, and driven. What not to love? Who needs a special snowflake when Deleina is so easy to like and relate to? From a reader who has a very hard time standing martyr-like behavior *cough* what *cough*, that's saying something : I loved the girl, alright?

I won't lie, I've started bracing myself against the out coming girl hate ever since Deleina met her fellow students. It never came. Red Queen who?! It will never fail to baffle me how popular these offensive books are when there are novels picturing so many girl friendships out there. In that aspect, The Queen of Blood is so much better than 90% of the YA Fantasy novels I've read, and don't even start with the "unrealistic" argument : I mean, really?! Does a teenage girl not seeing every fucking woman as an enemy too unrealistic for you? If yes, I'm genuinely sad for the world we're living in. Like. No. What's your deal. No. Deleina's story pictures supportive and healthy female friendships, plural, as well as a great amount of important roles played by women - and I shouldn't have to stress how important it is.

I won't dwell on the other characters, but know that I cared for every one of them, especially a certain idealistic champion who is not a love interest, I repeat, who is not a love interest. How refreshing is that? How I enjoyed their dynamics and banter! Beware, this does not mean that there isn't any romance, because there is, and that's part of what appealed to me the most : not the romance per se, because it was barely there and never the main focus, but the fact that there could be a sex-positive message and a nice romance without it being shared with the second POV of the story. Please, save us from the predicable meet-cute road. Thank you.

More generally, the side characters are well-rounded and made me eager to know more. They're also diverse (including a black love-interest^^) which is still too rare in YA Fantasy, unfortunately. Oh, and there's a wolf, okay? (yes, you're supposed to shriek in delight. You're welcome)

As for the plot, some might say that it lacks originality yet while I can understand that claim - and agree with it to some extent - The Queen of Blood still offers a decent amount of surprises in what appears to be a rather classic storyline. It's really not, but rather a refreshing tale whose author doesn't shy away from nasty punches. Perhaps you'll see some of them coming - I did - but I can assure you that you'll feel compelled to keep reading all the same. Because that's another thing this book does more than well : the pacing. As far as I'm concerned, there was never a dull moment. I mean, if Adult Fantasy stays my go-to read, sometimes I can't bother to go through 200 pages of long exposition, you know? Sometimes I want a book that can hold my interest through and through, and The Queen of Blood delivered.

I can't wait for the sequel.

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Profile Image for Paige  Bookdragon.
938 reviews610 followers
May 5, 2017
DNF around 70 %


This is not a bad book. In fact, I love it at first and the story about vicious spirits, a queen who has badass powers but is susceptible to corruption, a disgraced warrior who is not the love interest of the heroine, and sisterhood is amazing.

The problem that I have with this book though is that I can't really connect or feel the characters. Durst writes in a way that is easy to read along but I wasn't able to feel emotions with the cast, especially with Daleina. The characters are as flat as my boobs. No joke.

Take for example her time in the academy. I've read a lot about Daleina's friends and classmates and though the girl-power and friendship is great, I didn't really feel their significance because one chapter, they just passed the exam and are first year students and on the next chapter, years passed and they're already a senior or whatever.

I get that she wants to cover much of Daleina's life but I find the sudden change of time too fast. I also didn't understand Daleina's feelings for her love interest because their interaction was very limited. It came to the point that I no longer care for the story because my interest in the plot can only hold on to a point.

Note: Some people said the ending was really badass. Can anyone just spoil me the ending? I'm not planning on picking up the book anymore.
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,244 followers
September 16, 2016
This is one of those stories where the world has a great deal to do with the plot. In the land of Renthia, there are five countries, each ruled by a different queen with the power to keep the spirits (fire, ice, water, air, earth, wood) under control. The spirits roam free and are responsible for creation and destruction. It is in their instincts to kill humans, but the queen won’t let them. It is her duty to keep her country safe.

The Queen of Blood is set in the forests of Aratay where the villages and cities are in the trees. We’re with our main protagonist, Daleina, as she discovers she has an affinity to control spirits amidst a childhood tragedy and grows up to develop her ability while attending Northeast Academy in attempt to get the most out of her talents. She may not be the best student. She’s barely scraping by, but she’s determined, works hard, and she’s doing it all for the right reasons. Daleina’s heart is truly in the right place.

The story also follows Ven, the disgraced champion. Champions are responsible for selecting a candidate (out of those with an affinity for spirits) to train in hope of them becoming an heir, one who’s capable of becoming a future queen when the queen dies. We get a couple other different POVs as well. It never gets confusing.

The academy is filled with all these great female characters resulting in plenty of strong female friendships. It’s so beautiful within an environment where competition is so common. Daleina fights against the typical female stereotypes filled with jealousy and hatred. These girls support and help one another really shining a positive light on female friendship. Plus, some of these secondary characters were so excellent. There is a bit of romance that doesn’t overtake the plot. And occasionally, the story goes darker than expected. That’s the fun, though. Because Durst really isn’t afraid to go there.

I am really looking forward to the sequel. With how things are looking, a character I’m very intrigued by will be popping up again and I need to know what becomes of Renthia as the books go on. This is an excellent fantasy with extreme crossover appeal. Bravo Sarah Beth Durst!
Profile Image for Lisann.
124 reviews131 followers
August 30, 2020
“Whether you made your choices with your eyes open or closed, they’re made. It’s not time to regret them; it’s time to live with the consequences.”

Welcome to the review of a book that shredded my dreams and expectations, threw them on the floor, and trampled on them with dirty shoes.

What I liked:

The world building was just fantastic. We dive into a world where spirits and humans work hand in hand to keep nature alive together. And by together I mean that the spirits are forced by a queen to do no evil and are only supported in their creative urge by manipulating them. There are spirits of every element and as soon as one of them dies it has a drastic effect on the environment, which means that if you kill all the spirits (because they are actually a threat and want to kill people as a punishment for making nature their own) people would no longer be able to survive. No more wind, no water, no wood, no fruit, no fire. Accordingly, every year new candidates for the throne are trained, who after a four-year academy have to prove their ability to master the spirits by passing a number of trials. Because as soon as the current queen either dies or loses power, the spirits would instantly attack the people. Oh and I have to mention that our main character will have a friendly wolf later on whos name is Bayn. If you know me a bit by now you can tell I'm a sucker for animal companions!

Tropes: Training setting in the form of a magic school, then later the teacher-student trope combined with people living in tree house villages.
“Know me, for I am death to all oath breaker, promise renders, and betrayers. Know me, for I am the last sunset, the night without the dawn, the winter without spring. I am pain to your pleasure, silence to your shout, stillness to your speed. I hunt death.”


What I disliked:

I mostly read plot driven books and this one is no exception. The bad thing about this book is that the author used this as an excuse not to create real characters. I can really see over many things when I am caught up in a world like this but THIS was just bad. There is not a single character in this book that has a deep personality. Daleina (one of our main characters) can be summarized as follows: She worries about being the weakest of the candidates and therefore doesn't think she deserves to become queen later on, so she works very hard to improve herself. That's it. That's all you can say about her. Ven (our second main character) is a disgraced master who trains candidates after the Academy. About his personality the following can be said: He has the need to protect people. And he is naive about the image of his queen, with whom he had a love affair before she banished him.
“Don't trust the fire, for it will burn you.
Don't trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
Don't trust the water, for it will drown you.
Don't trust the air, for it will choke you.
Don't trust the earth, for it will bury you.
Don't trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead.”

The second problem is the missing feelings. There are two "love relationships" in this book, one of which you could theoretically observe how it develops, while the second one simply already exists. These two "couples" have no chemistry whatsoever with each other (how could they, they are not lifelike characters) but you don't learn anything about why they love each other at all. For Daleinas love interest there is a description of how she sees him in her eyes (so really only his outer appearance) and then it doesn't even describe why they are together. It is not clear whether she has feelings for him at all, because you don't get detailed scenes between the two, there are no inner monologues because it is written from the narrative perspective. Nevertheless, you could describe here how two lovers interact with each other so that the reader can understand why they love each other and how the way of interaction differs from a friendship. There wasn't even the phase where you could guess that the two are falling in love (except to say that it would fit into the story now). None of this takes place here, there was a first kiss where there was no tension even before and the rest is not really described.
“Daleina would not be kept from her fate. She’d run toward it, arms open, and kick fate in the face.”

The same principle can be applied here to friendships that are not developed in this book but simply exist after a short time. In the end she even had several "friends" but you could only tell them apart by their names. There is a single character named Merecot (the only one that is not displayed like all the others and therefore seems more interesting) who could possibly become an antagonist later on and even she considered Daleina as a friend after the a few days. You could tell her apart by the fact that she at least gave her some sass or said straight to her face what she thinks of Daleinas powers or what a future she will probably have. Unfortunately, Merecot is only present for a short period of time and is then casually mentioned in a single sentence towards the end. But this statement was a great insight and I wish we would have Merecot's perspective in the second book, but I doubt it.


I have never read a book in which I had the feeling that the characters are described so one-dimensionally that I could not connect with them at all, put myself in their shoes or even feel excited about them. There were scenes that were supposed to be tragic or a reunion after a long time and none of them affected me because she didn't show any feelings herself. I'm so disappointed with this story at the same time because the world itself has so much potential and the plot would have been great if there were just realistically descriptive characters. The end is predictable and although in the course of the story even people who should actually be close to her die, this is dealt with in one sentence and hardly mentioned again afterwards.

The Queen of Blood was one of my most anticipated books this year, so I was even more disappointed with what happened. I will still give the second book a chance because I JUST LOVE THIS WORLD an apparently it takes place years after the first one. A different main character has to be trained to be a candidate since the new queen of this book is dying. Maybe the author learned something after this and can create a different book that hopefully will not just be book one with a new protagonist all over again!

Buddy read with my loveliest and slowest reader of all time: Joshita who forgets to send me her notes and thoughts! <3 I'm always glad to pull you out of a reading slump even though the book turned out to be more of a disappointment. May the next buddy read book be awesome again!
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
725 reviews1,199 followers
June 1, 2020
Queen of the Blood hooked me from the first page. Which is saying something, considering how hard I’ve been on YA lately (update: it’s not YA... that would explain things, lol).

It had an excellent start – surprising me right out of the gate with a few plot decisions that I really appreciated because I’m well past the point of feeling most YA novels are repetitive. It has been many moons since one defied my straightforward predictions so well. It maintained a level of distinction from other books in the genre the whole way through. Nice.

Although not expanded on, there were some really neat world-building attributes to the story that gave it a unique flair. Setting: settlements and towns nestled in rich, forested areas. Atmosphere: the ever-present threat from looming spirits. Leadership structure: one woman selected by the spirits to control them (what could go wrong here?). School systems: fun training exercises to teach young women how to harness spirits (in case they become queen). All of these components are what made the novel so successful for me.

What knocked it back down a notch or two was that I don’t think some of these things were expanded on enough… most specifically the school system. It’s the main selling point of the story, but I think there were many missed opportunities to provide a true moment of training for the reader. Obstacle course tests were really brief and lacked detail. Coursework was mentioned, but the reader rarely got to learn anything from it. At least it did incorporate a lot of spirit-harnessing work outside of the academy, so that saved it to a degree. Even so, I wish there had been more.

The characters were good. They reminded me a bit of those in the Lunar Chronicles from a dynamic standpoint. There could’ve been more connection with the side characters, however. They all blended together to the point where, when something happened to one of them, it didn’t have an impact because they were interchangeable. A huge gripe of mine (the biggest hit to my rating) was how ignorant the main characters remained to what was really going on, despite having clues that a grade schooler could pick up on (the reader knows all along… I’m not a fan of dramatic irony, either). You could rationalize a few explanations, but it came off to me as a craft issue – the author needed the characters not to know something to keep the story going, so she lessened their ability to reason through evidence instead of reworking how it was presented. It drove me crazy because it was an inconsistency of character (beings who were capable, careful, thoughtful, intuitive… all thrown out for convenience). I don’t normally rant in my reviews, but this issue tested my patience. Queen of Blood was still a fun read… just be prepared to “go with it” to a degree.

Overall, I’m thrilled at how often the book surprised me. The writing was engaging and fluid, making it easy to devour. There were a few things I thought could’ve been developed more, but hopefully they’ll get expanded on in the next book.

Recommendations: this YA fantasy offers a lot of fun and creativity. It would be a great rec for people who liked the feel of the fae in the “Wicked Lovely” series, and those who appreciated the unique atmosphere of the “Lunar Chronicles.” I had some minor personal gripes with it, but comparably it’s still a very strong recommend if you like the genre. :)

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

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Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely, #1) by Melissa Marr Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer The Novice (Summoner, #1) by Taran Matharu The Sweetest Dark (The Sweetest Dark, #1) by Shana Abe Storm Born (Dark Swan #1) by Richelle Mead
Profile Image for Joshita ❤.
172 reviews381 followers
September 2, 2020
My rating: 3★
"Don't trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead.”
It was a fun read with a very gripping plot but sadly I was disappointed. Bear in mind that it is not a bad book, it just wasn't the ONE for me.

The Queen of Blood is the first book in 'The Queens of Renthia' trilogy. Set in a magical land of Renthia where everything has a spirit—fire, earth, air, wood, water but as much as these spirits want to create, they ache to destroy life. Only a few girls are born with an affinity to control the spirits and one of them becomes a QUEEN who controls the spirits and balances the order in the land. And so heirs are chosen to prepare them to be queens when the current queen dies. Daleina is one such candidate, who trains to right the wrongs. As the spirits start to fall out of order, Ven, a disgraced champion, and Daleina join forces to find the cause and get their nation to peace and safety.
“Whether you made your choices with your eyes open or closed, they’re made. It’s not time to regret them; it’s time to live with the consequences.”

I had no plans of reading this but one of my friends Lisann came on and asked if I would buddy read and considering how I was in a reading slump, I said YES. And I don't regret my decision at all. The plot is very intriguing and one of the things that pulled me in was the magic system. Here humans don't possess the ability to do magic themselves but some girls have the power to control and manipulate the spirits for their own good. And basically get them to do things for them.

The world that Sarah Beth Durst built was so beautiful and dreamy. There is no clear way of saying that I loved her way of telling a story. The worldbuilding is done so amazingly that every detail feels real. The author paints this beautiful image in your mind and every detail is written with delicacy. Aratay is the most magical land with nature embedded in it. The houses and palaces and academies are all built on these huge trees. They use bridges and pulleys to work and I imagine the world as follows~ Now that what i call living a life in peace people!

As I have already mentioned that the writing in the book was phenomenal. You can spot a lot of different things happening in the story, there is fantasy and magic with politics and a pinch of romance. And with the multiple POVs, the author weaves it all together. The book does have a lot of time jumps, I actually thought that maybe around 15 chapters or so might be dedicated to Daleina's life at the school. But the story is extremely fast-paced and sometimes it is a little overwhelming. I would often get to a part that I would love to spend time on but there would be a time jump right around that time. If I am being honest, that did irritate me. I knew the author was trying to get the story to its main objective but there were far too many time jumps at the beginning that disrupted the flow of the story...for me. But the last fight sequence was so well written, thanks to my graphic imagination and excessive binging of anime—I enjoyed the brutality of it all! Ugh now I just like psycho lol
“Know me, for I am death to all oath breaker, promise renders, and betrayers. Know me, for I am the last sunset, the night without the dawn, the winter without spring. I am pain to your pleasure, silence to your shout, stillness to your speed. I hunt death.”

Despite such a good plot, the poor character-building dropped my interest and rating. The author was continually working on progressing the story and now if I look back, I don't really "know" the characters.
Every relationship that the book formed, lacked something and I knew it from the start but I thought that in the next few chapters, it might be explored more...but this book does lack the personality. I felt rather aloof by the time I reached the third half of the book because the parts that should have made me excited and happy didn't do much and the parts that should have broken me didn't feel that sad or heartbreaking. It is only when I get attached to the character that I feel for their loss or happiness and there were so many opportunities to mould the characters and carve them like real people but Sarah missed them all. And as my friend Lis said "What can you say about Daleina except that she is worried that her powers are not enough or that others are stronger? What makes her different?".
The true character traits are missing. Even though we have two main POVs, we barely know the characters.

The relationships in the book weren't written properly...NOT EVEN A SINGLE ONE!
So, one of the main features (except for the world) that got me excited was a Student-teacher relationship between Daleina and Ven . That relationship and ultimately it progressing into a brother-sister bond was the reason I got hyped in the first place. I have had a really good student-teacher and brother-sister relationship and that has got me through a lot of tough times. That relationship is very close to my heart and I wanted to see it projected here. It did start rather promising, it was going in that direction and I waited to see Ven and Daleina together but as I said the time jumps, poorly written characters and relationships ruined the one thing I was so excited to read about. It is established that Ven and Daleina get close and they care about each other but we never see how. The question is how did they get close? We do not see that journey, we do not see the character growth or their relationship growth. It was one of the most disappointing things for me because I was expecting a lot! HOW CAN YOU EXPECT ME TO JUST BELEIVE A CERTAIN RELATIONSHIP WHEN YOU DONT EVEN TRY AND SHOW US THE JOURNEY OR THE STRUGGLES OR THE BOND...

Then there are the romantic relationships in the book that aren't so fun to read. They lack chemistry and zeel. And considering I am one of those people who love any kind of romance in a fantasy—this one was NOT it. Although there was a lot of female friendship in the book and the author did try and get as much variety and warmness as possible, I just didn't really feel that. The friendship was meant to touch my heart but I could barely remember their names let alone cheer for them. We were just giving a fact that they were close and we needed to learn that fact. We didn't get any proof to as what or how they were close, we were expected to cram that information and be okay with that. AND I AM NOT OKAY WITH THAT!
“Daleina would not be kept from her fate. She’d run toward it, arms open, and kick fate in the face.”

Now, if I talk about Daleina, the main character—despite her lack of personality, she wasn't a typical heroine. She wasn't the best and struggled with magic and so she made up by working hard and that was so interesting to me. She came in last for as long as she can remember and pulled every muscle to reach the top. It really is great to read about characters who aren't the top ones or chosen ones because the amount of work they put in throughout the book is so satisfying to read when it pays off by the end.


There are just too many instances where things could have been so much better but because of the writing, I didn't fully enjoy them. Everything felt rushed and all the fragments were loose but there still isn't a doubt that I loved the world. The author could have added a few more scenes in the childhood era, then the academy scenes should have been more and then the training because I don't feel attached to anything. I would not have minded the author stretching theses scenes out and maybe have the series as a four-book one and not as a trilogy. I would have loved to see the story taking its time before just rushing to the end.
But if you are looking for a great plot-driven story and wouldn't mind the lack of character depth then this book will be great for you. It has action, adventure, friendship, a bit of romance, magic, exciting tropes. So go ahead and give it a try.

Q~ Will I read the next installment?
A~ I guess so, I mean it sounds pretty interesting but I am not too eager to jump on that wagon. But I'll get to it eventually.

#Buddy read this book with the very tolerable Lisann, who wouldn't get mad when you forget to send her notes and will wait for you if you read slower than her. It is always fun reading with her. So, thank you Lis♥
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,047 reviews3,455 followers
March 3, 2023
4.5 stars rounded up

I don't know why I put off reading this so long because it's great! The Queen of Blood is exactly the kind of immersive fantasy adventure I can cozy up with on a cold day AND it has a trope I love-a magic school/training.

After surviving the destruction of most of her village by malicious forest spirits, Daleina is determined to do whatever it takes to become Queen and protect the people of Renthia. And in this world, a Queen is highly trained in magic related to controlling spirits because it is her responsibility to protect the entire kingdom. But in secret, the current Queen's control is slipping and she is desperate to keep her throne and her life. Meanwhile Daleina is working her butt off to survive the rigors of this magical academy where everyone else seems to have far more raw talent.

I had a really good time with this. The characters were interesting and fairly well drawn, the magic system was cool, the plot moved along at a nice pace, and the writing was something I could just sink into. I think this is a very accessible fantasy novel that will keep a reader's attention. Is it the most ground-breaking, inventive, or memorable book? No. But it is a page-turner and reminded me of why I've loved fantasy for so much of my life.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,133 reviews309 followers
February 24, 2017
I'm a sucker for the magic/training school trope, I'm not going to lie about that. However, because I like it, I want it done well.

This book has a nice balance of depth and action with a touch of darkness. Well, it is called The Queen of Blood so a bit of darkness is obviously expected. I liked how the main character was not the strongest in ability or the most naturally talented. She ultimately exceeds because of her strength of character. The idea of a whole culture based in a forest and intimately tied to nature spirits who hate humans is really interesting. I would have liked a bit more detail with the worldbuilding, but maybe more will emerge in forthcoming books.

This is a strong start to a new trilogy that I'm excited to continue.
Profile Image for Sam.
216 reviews31 followers
February 28, 2017
I’m having trouble rating this book. On the one hand, I loved the world, the magic system, and the plot. But I never fell in love with any of the characters and that really makes a book fall flat for me. A world can be amazing, but it’s the characters I return to read about. I think it’s a 3.5 for me. I’m going to round up to a 4 though. I really did love this world and I would pick up the next one.

The Queen of Blood takes place in Aratay. It’s a kingdom built in a giant forest – think rainforest with the different levels of canopy. Villages exist off the ground with bridges to connect them and even zip line wires up high for fast travel. I love a different setting which feels compelling and meaningful and everything about this world felt thought-out. It’s often a hard thing to do when you’re creating cultures that are a 180 but there wasn’t a moment where I thought something didn’t seem to fit in this world.

Don’t trust the fire, for it will burn you.
Don’t trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
Don’t trust the water, for it will drown you.
Don’t trust the air, for it will choke you.
Don’t trust the earth, for it will bury you.
Don’t trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead.

My favorite part of this book was the spirits – fire, ice, water, air, earth, and forest. They exist to create or destroy and they long to kill humans. All of the spirits are controlled by a human Queen with the power to make them do no harm. The ability to control also exists among other women with varying degrees of talent who range out around the kingdom protecting villages and helping them to grow while keeping an eye out on the spirits who always seek to kill.

The book follows Daleina, a young girl whose village is ripped apart by a spirit attack. Daleina discovers she has a small ability to control the spirits but is only able to save her immediate family. She makes it her dream to become Queen in order to protect the people she loves and enters the Academy. The Academy is where girls with talent go for training and eventually hope to become Heirs. Whenever a Queen dies, all the Heirs come together and the spirits select a new Queen and imbibe her with the power to control them all. As much as the spirits long to destroy, they also want to create and the Queen is the balance keeping them from destroying everything.

I liked Daleina but I never loved her. I often fall for the strong plucky sarcastic females. It’s not that Daleina isn’t a strong character, but it’s of a different type. She’s far from the best at the Academy, but she recognizes it and learns ways around it. I definitely can appreciate a girl finding a different way from the norm but she so often doubts herself that it becomes a bit hard to cheer for her. Something kept me from completely connecting with her, but I’m not 100% sure what that was. Maybe a bit more character development given the length of time supposedly passing in the story would have helped.

None of the side characters really drove the story home for me either. There’s Ven, the exiled champion. Champions exist to give older trainees some real world experience. He’s the older mentor trope, but with some differences. He was probably my favorite character, and yet, there were times when he felt too naïve and young to be the mentor. I don’t mean a mentor can’t be naïve, and it did add a nice complexity to his character.

The other girls at the Academy were interesting, but not on the page long enough to really build a connection. Then there’s Hamon, the throwaway love interest. If I can be allowed to go on a tangent here (and I can it’s my review =D ), I Did. Not. Understand. Why. He. Was. Included. I get it. It’s YA. There had to be a love interest? Ugh. Such a stupid worthless use of pages. Sorry Hamon, but you brought nothing to the story except to make me roll my eyes. On a similar topic, there’s a wolf pet that had no point to the story and could have been cut. I love animal pets but he made such an impression that I can’t even remember his name.

I really did love this world though. It was a new and interesting setting which seamlessly fit into the story. It wasn’t different just to be different but really felt developed. The story has some slow parts but it continues to build toward the end. The ending was a brutal eye-opener and I loved it. I just wish the characters were on the same level as the world for me. I liked Daleina more when she got out of the Academy-setting so here’s hoping for Book 2. Just please get rid of Hamon already.
Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews552 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 24, 2017
So I was reading this with Josh, but I'm DNFing it for now as we move onto another book. This one just isn't holding my interest. It feels like an amalgamation of Uprooted and the First Year Series, and to be quite honest I didn't enjoy either of those books enough to want to re-read such a similar feeling story so soon.

DNF at 30%

Jumping straight into another buddy read with my friend Joshua Gabriel (Forever Bookish Josh). Looking forward to another jaunt into YA/Fantasy. I've read one book by Sarah Beth Durst before and really enjoyed it, so I'm quite looking forward to this!
Profile Image for Maria V. Snyder.
Author 82 books16.9k followers
October 8, 2018
Another fantasy with a very unique world - guess when you grow up on Tolkien, Eddings, and Brooks you have a certain expectation for a fantasy world and I'm happy when I find a book that's not a traditional fantasy. Sarah's book has a world that is inhabited with spirits that are intent on killing all the humans - the only thing keeping them at bay is the Queen, who has the power to control their murdering impulses. This story is focused on Daleina a young girl who witnesses her tree village be attacked by spirits and all of them except her family are killed. She has the power to control spirits, but it's weak. So she goes to a school to learn how to use this power and to hopefully become a heir. An heir is a woman who has the power to be Queen if the current queen dies.

Daleina might not be the most powerful of her class, but she's smart and resourceful and uses what she has to great advantage. I enjoyed this story up until the end.

Profile Image for Cinda.
Author 54 books11.1k followers
March 22, 2017
This wildly creative tale will plunge you headfirst into a dangerous world of bloodthirsty spirits and the women who stand up to them.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,605 followers
October 29, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/10/29/...

Color me pleasantly surprised – a book that ostensibly bore many hallmarks of your average possibly-YA-but-maybe-not fantasy novel in fact turned out to be a very refreshing and unique read. I honestly didn’t expect to like this book so much, especially since my feelings for the story fluctuated so wildly for most of the first half. However, all traces of uncertainty were washed away by the time the plot ramped up to its brutal climax and staggering conclusion.

The Queen of Blood introduces us to the world of Aratay, a place where humans and nature spirits coexist in a state of precarious equilibrium. Spirits see humans as invaders in their domain, and given the opportunity they would gladly see us all dead. But while the spirits are destructive forces, they are also one with the natural world, and without them there would be no rain, no fire, no life.
So humans have learned to adapt. In Aratay, a Queen holds control over all the spirits in the area and protects her people from harm. To choose a Queen, girls with an affinity to sense and manipulate the spirits are identified and invited to an academy to learn how to use their powers. The most promising students are chosen by champions to be further trained to become potential heirs, so that in the event that the Queen dies there will always be a successor to take her place and keep the spirits in line.

Sometimes though, there are accidents. The book begins with a spirit attack on a village, which leaves many dead. Our protagonist, a young girl named Daleina, was only able to save herself and her family when her powers manifested during the massacre, and since that day has vowed to do all she can to prevent something like this from ever happening again. That determination ultimately leads her to the academy, where unfortunately, she discovers that her abilities are actually very weak compared to the many more talented girls in her class. But as more and more villages fall prey to spirits each year, it is becoming clear that the current Queen is starting to lose control—or worse, perhaps these attacks like the one on Daleina’s village were not in fact accidents at all. Something very bad is coming to Aratay, but will Daleina and her fellow aspirants be powerful or prepared enough to confront it?

As I said before, my feelings were all over the place for the first half of this novel. When I first started, my attention was immediately captured by the different feel the gorgeously detailed setting and atmosphere. The people and cultures of Aratay are closely tied to the land, with towns and even whole cities literally built into the canopies of the trees. I also liked the ideas and lore surrounding the large variety of spirits. To be clear, these aren’t your typical chaotic neutral entities that just want to live wild and free to do what nature spirits are wont to do. Instead, they are malevolent and destructive to their core. There’s a song that every child knows growing up:

Don’t trust the fire, for it will burn you.
Don’t trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
Don’t trust the water, for it will drown you.
Don’t trust the air, for it will choke you.
Don’t trust the earth, for it will bury you.
Don’t trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead.

It’s a silly little ditty, but it does serve to illustrate a very important point: that nature in this world isn’t something vast and beautiful and unfathomable to be respected or held in awe. No, the spirits are downright terrible—not merely cold and heartless but actually vicious and bloodthirsty. They are to be feared, and rightly so.

Things were building up to be very interesting—that is, until my enthusiasm was slightly dampened by the sudden arrival of the magic school trope. Don’t get me wrong though, for I enjoy the magic school trope and everything that comes along with it very much, but this book had the potential to step off such well-trodden paths. What follows is the usual pattern of watching a young protagonist develop her personality as she gradually comes of age, making friends and learning new skills along the way. To be fair, the author did manage to surprise me with some unconventional twists, such as Daleina’s unexpected friendship with Merecot (the arrogant, overachieving “queen bee” who in almost any other YA-type story would have been immediately typecasted as the main character’s bitchy rival) or the fact that Daleina really isn’t all that talented—and she knows it but also accepts it. Our heroine is a genuinely good person who isn’t there for her own glory, having a clear understanding the true meaning of service and self-sacrifice for the greater good. She has gotten as far as she has not because she is exceptional, but simply because she works her butt off. You gotta admire that kind of dedication and work ethic.

The really amazing parts though, were all in the second half of this book. That’s when I saw a good story make the shift to being a great one. I don’t want to give too much more away, but suffice to say the plot escalated into a high-stake crisis and very dangerous, dramatic circumstances. I really liked how everything came together, and the ending was simply stunning—in a “I can’t believe all that really just happened” kind of way.

All in all, things tie up quite nicely but there are also plenty of seeds planted here that will no doubt be explored in the sequel. I for one cannot wait to see what else Sarah Beth Durst has in store for us. For an introduction to a series, The Queen of Blood amazes me with its potential, and I look forward to the next book with great enthusiasm.
Profile Image for Sabrina.
476 reviews245 followers
Want to read
March 27, 2018
“Don’t trust the fire, for it will burn you.
Don’t trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
Don’t trust the water, for it will drown you.
Don’t trust the air, for it will choke you.
Don’t trust the earth, for it will bury you.
Don’t trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead.”

Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
999 reviews782 followers
December 31, 2017

Rating ~4.5?
Well, this was not at all what I was expecting and you know what? It's fantastic!

Our heroine Daelina is no special snowflake. Not in the slightest. She lacks the intrinsic magically ability of many of her contemporaries. However, she is extremely dedicated, hardworking and clever. She is determined to do the right thing. Daelina's desire to be queen is not for the power or glory, but truly out her hope to see to the betterment of the country. Her quest to become stronger stems from her need to protect those she loves. In that way, she reminds me a lot of Mildred's from Mildred's Resistance. And when she believes she may not be the one who can accomplish this she has no issues stepping aside, working from the background to help her fellow candidates shine and succeed. Which only further demonstrates her ability to lead, Daelina is not out for herself. She is team player, the mission comes before anything and everything else.

Romance takes a major back seat in this book, with the focus being more on self-discovery, sisterhood, mentorship, and friendship. Rather than have the second perspective be from the PoV of Daelina's love interest, who really only plays a small role, we get the PoV of her mentor Ven. He provides us insight into the past of the current queen and also another look at Daelina and her journey to becoming the strong, independent, confident young woman she was always meant to be.

Note this book is not exactly fast-paced and highly action-packed. It requires attention and patience. If I were to equate it to something I would say it is like a nice cup of tea (or wine for my friends who are wine fans lol). It is not meant to be consumed quickly but rather calmly and steadily, so one may enjoy all its small pleasant notes.
Profile Image for Mari.
705 reviews5,070 followers
November 13, 2019

3.5 stars

If you are thinking of checking out this book, you have to approach it with patience. I found this to be very slow at the start, though purposefully so. You could tell that the author was taking her time setting the pieces, laying out the paths that would draw our characters together. It also took me a while to get invested in the characters. Even so, I would say that I love Daleina, I love Bane and I'm just okay with Ven and the healer dude. The whole time, I was upset that Ven wasn't as upset at things as I was. He definitely made some questionable decisions while my girl was out there kicking ass. The healer just need to back the heck up. And maybe that was the point of both their characters, but it left things so that I was only waiting to get through any scene they were in and get back to Daleina.

I really love the idea of this world where all of the elements are spirits who are also destructive and hate humans. I mean, come on, that premise. If you read a lot of YA fantasy this whole story might feel a little familiar, but not in a bad way. Sure, some of the chosen one, prickly champion with a heart of gold, mean girl tropes are in this, but the back bone of the story was unique enough that it never felt like a copy paste.

I already put a hold for the next two books because there were some really clear pieces that were left open that I can't wait to follow through.
Profile Image for Fafa's Book Corner.
512 reviews298 followers
May 8, 2017
Mini review:

One of the best fantasies I have ever read! I have never felt so connected to the characters and the plot in my entire life. Cannot wait for the sequel!

Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,632 followers
June 21, 2017
I went into this not having read any reviews or even the flap copy. I didn't need to. Sarah is a dear friend, and I have loved every one of her books. Every one is amazing, and every one is completely different.

This was no exception. It was of course amazing, but let's talk about different. Not only was it different from her other books. It was just plain DIFFERENT. I have never seen a magic system quite like this. I know I've never seen a world like this. I don't want to describe it, because I won't do it justice, and I would hate to spoil anything . . . but wow, was this different. And amazing.

If you love magic, and stories about strange new worlds, this is for you. If you like to see girls doing badass stuff, this is for you.

If you hate magic and don't like female protagonists, this is not for you. Also, we can not be friends.
Profile Image for Krissysch.
260 reviews30 followers
March 15, 2018
Am Anfang bin ich nicht so gut in die Geschichte hineingekommen, mit der Zeit wurde das aber besser und das Buch immer spannender. Die Idee dahinter, die Magie, die verschiedenen Geister, das alles war richtig gut umgesetzt und mal was ganz anderes. Ich habe mich auf jeden Fall in diese Welt verliebt und bin ganz gespannt auf die Folgebände!
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews839 followers
September 1, 2016
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
Book One of the Queens of Renthia series
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

What I Liked:

Good... but not great. I'm not quite sure how to articulate how I feel about this book. I didn't hate it - no, I enjoyed it, to a point. In the end, the book was predictable and a little cliche, as far as adult fantasy fiction novels go. But, it was okay, enjoyable, not terrible.

This story follows several protagonists, but mainly Daleina. The story starts with her as a ten-year-old, with her four-year-old sister, and parents. One day, as the family is going about their business like any normal day, their tree village is decimated by spirits. Spirits are always everywhere, but the queen controls them, so they don't usually attack humans. Why did they attack? Daleina's family is taken to another village, but Daleina is taken to train at Northeast Academy to hone her power (she discovers, when her family is attacked, that she has some power over the spirits). Nine years pass during this story, from beginning to end. After years at the Academy, Daleina is chosen the disgraced champion to be a candidate to be an heir, one of fifty women in the running to be queen, when Queen Fara dies. But Queen Fara has plans of her own, and they don't always seem to line up with the intentions of a good queen. Daleina must learn her power to take on even greater power than she'd ever encountered.

This book is written in third-person, limited. Most of the story is told from Daleina's POV, but we also have Ven's (the disgraced champion), and sometimes Queen Fara's, and Headmistress Hanna's. At first I wasn't a huge fan of the switches in POV, but I definitely began to appreciate the various POVs as the story grew more complex.

I liked that the story followed Daleina, for about nine years. From a ten-year-old to a nineteen-year-old, we see so much of her life story, and her growth. Durst doesn't skimp on the "backstory" - no, a huge chunk of this book (like, 20%) takes place when Daleina is not even a teenager. Then we see her going through the Academy and learning and struggling. And then Champion Ven comes to the Academy and chooses a candidate (which is like an apprentice) - her.

Champion Ven's story is easily the most important, behind Daleina's. Ven is possibly one of the best Champions to have existed. A Champion trains candidates to (hopefully) becomes heirs, who are able to be future queens. Ven is fairly young, maybe thirties or so. He used to be Queen Fara's lover, until she declared him the "Disgraced Champion" and exiled him. I liked Ven a lot - he's very smart, skilled, well-practiced, and good at what he does. I didn't like how he couldn't ever seem to resist Fara, and was a little blind to her wrongdoing.

One thing I liked seeing in this book was the positive female friendships! Daleina makes a ton of girl friends at the Academy. The Academy encourages competition, for the girls to treat each other like enemies. But Daleina makes friends and the girls help each other and stick together, and not just in the Academy. Each of them are chosen by Champions, and they help each other to the end of the book. Very good!

There is a small aspect of romance in this book. It's very small, involving Daleina and a young Healer. I liked these two together, though you can clearly see the author pushing the Healer to the side and making Daleina seem much more powerful and independent than him. I don't love this, but at the same time, good for Daleina. Ven has his own weird "romance" with Fara.

This book is pure adult fantasy, and the world-building is set up nicely. It doesn't feel particularly unique to me, but that might just be me. The spirits things (spirits of fire, water, air, wood, ice, etc. -- not human spirits from dead people) was interesting, but the vessel queen thing was kind of cliche. I didn't love the progression of the story, and the ending was entirely predictable, but it was okay. I must credit the author with excellent writing and world-building and character development.

What I Did Not Like:

The beginning of this book, and other parts of it, was dreadfully boring. I had a bit of a hard time getting into the story, past the initial 20%. I liked watching Daleina grow, but her pre-teenage and early Academy years were so, so boring. Things really only started to get interesting when Daleina left the Academy with Ven.

I'm not a huge fan of the plot in general - it was very predictable. Maybe it was predictable to me, maybe to everyone, but I could see where things were going pretty much from the start. OF COURSE Queen Fara is doing this or that. OF COURSE Daleina is going to do this in the end. There is a little bit of "the chosen one" syndrome in this book too.

Did I mention the cliche and totally predictable ending? Good grief, I didn't see that one coming. Nope, because the ending was SO original.

I liked Daleina's relationship with Hamon (her Healer boyfriend), but I didn't always like how Daleina didn't consider his opinion on things. I know we're all feminists these days (this is good), but that doesn't mean we should discredit the thoughts of others. Or make fictional male love interests two-dimensional lovesick puppies. This bothers me immensely. I wanted to like Hamon, but I feel like Durst was trying to show that Daleina was her own boss, and by doing so, Durst neglected to really craft Hamon. We meet Hamon waaaaay before Daleina meets Ven, In fact, Hamon is introduced to the story when Ven is exiled (and Daleina is not a teenager at this point).

In general, I just wasn't impressed. This is not something I can pinpoint. I didn't love the story. I have reasons, and they may not seem like enough, but I didn't love the story. I liked it, but not enough to gush about it. It was okay!

Would I Recommend It:

It's not a bad story, but I just wasn't feeling it. It was okay. Good, but not great. Well-written, but I'm not in love with the story. I feel like others might like it? It's adult fiction (not adult romance), very well-written fantasy. Definitely on the predictable and sometimes cliche side, but well-written. Adult though (even though it's something of a coming-of-age story) - there is somewhat mature content.


3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. I just didn't like it enough to give it 4 stars. Good but not great is what goes through my mind when I think of this book. I'll probably read the next books in the series. I think they follow different female protagonists, if I'm not mistaken. The next book will probably be more about Merecot!
Profile Image for Sunny.
275 reviews241 followers
May 28, 2020
Queen of Blood is essentially a story about evil elemental spirits who hate all of human kind. And humans cannot always fight back because these spirits are needed to keep the woods alive. The Queen is the sole individual who has the power to keep these spirits from slaughtering every human they see. But without a Queen, the spirits are free to ravage anyone they come across. So while there is a Queen, those who have the ability to control spirits will need to train and compete against one another to be trained to take the Queen’s place in case she falls. 

The novel starts with spirits attacking an entire village. This is where Daleina, our protagonist, comes to the realization that she can control spirits. She manages to save her family, but most of the remaining villagers die during the attack. Being one of the very few women who possess this ability, she knows she needs to train to be heir. Ven is an ex-Champion to the Queen. Though he was banished, he joins forces with Daleina to figure out why the spirits have been acting on edge lately. 

Within just the first few pages, I knew the writing would be flawless. The imagery is insanely beautiful. Villages are built upon massive tree branches, and just so much of the story takes place in woodland areas. Maybe it’s just this lockdown, but I was severely missing all the hiking I did here in California prior to quarantine. I almost cried. That’s how naturesque this book is.  

I see this book being marketed as both young adult and adult fantasy. I personally feel this book could be for anyone. The little to none sexual scenes are very brief and fade-to-black. And the violence is not at all graphic in my opinion. Yet, this book is far from your typical young adult fantasy novel. We have a female protagonist who is not the best at what she does. She constantly fails, but takes note to learn from her failures. And whatever accomplishments she gains, she gains through hard work. And believe it or not, this dual POV fantasy is not a romance between Daleina and Ven. Ven is more of a brotherly/fatherly figure to her. And the very little romance there is basically nonexistent. You don’t even notice it. It never once deviates from the overall plot, or causes Daleina to make rash decisions. 

If you’re like me and are tired of YA fantasy recently, don’t let the title fool you into thinking this is just another generic one. It’s not. I am so glad I picked it up.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,263 reviews222 followers
February 27, 2017
In this world everything has an elemental spirit, each ruled by contradictory impulses, to create and to destroy. For the world to survive there must be a human Queen to rule over the spirits and temper their impulses.

In Renthia, a young determined woman trains to become an heir to the current Queen and forms a partnership with a Champion who is in disgrace after questioning the current Queen. Daleina's origin and struggle to become an heir is against the background of a horrible betrayal and a time of strife for the whole country.

This is really good. Daleina's not the most powerful of magic-users, but she's clever, resourceful and shows leadership over raw power. The Champion Ven is torn between his love for Queen Fara and his duty to the country and to his young student. Add to that some terrific world-building and a fascinating system of magic and I think this is a terrific start to the series.
Profile Image for Lucie V..
973 reviews1,793 followers
June 27, 2022
✅ Magic
✅ World-building
✅ Plot
✅ Pace
✅ Action
✅ Characters

Well... I did not expect to enjoy this book so much, it was a nice surprise.

A Queen of Blood was refreshing, mainly because of the setting. The people of Aratay are living in a giant forest. Their homes are built in trees, they travel from tree to tree with bridges of kinds of zip lines. Everything in this realm is intertwined with nature and they must be very wary of the forest spirits. Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Wood, and Ice: the spirits live in the forest and are thirsty for the blood of humans. The only thing keeping them from destroying everything is the Queen. She has the ability to control and command the spirits.

From the first chapter, there is action, but also quite a long timeline. The story begins when Daleina is very young (9 years old) and then most of the story happens a few years later when she is nineteen, but the progression from nine to nineteen was smooth. It was not just a big jump in time and magically she is older, wiser, and stronger.

Basically, a few women have the ability to control spirits, they are trained to become potential heiresses to Renthia. They have to pass a test to enter the academy where they are restlessly trained and they have to be chosen by a Champion if they want to be allowed in the trial to become an heir. Fifty heirs are selected so that when the queen dies, the spirit will choose the next queen (usually the most powerful of the heirs). There are many tests and steps to becoming an heir and I really liked how things were hard for Daleina. She was never the strongest and she does not become amazingly powerful just because she worked so hard. No matter how hard she tries, she is quite average when it comes to controlling and commanding spirits. Her struggle allowed us to focus more on her intelligence, wits, and leadership and to realize that the strongest is not always the best.

Some things were predictable, some were not, but overall it was hard to put that book down. The pace, the action, the description, everything was very well balanced. The ending was horrible and exciting at the same time, the author managed to set things nicely for the second book.
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews545 followers
September 6, 2016
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Dark, terrifying world ruled by spirits where one girl through her smarts and ingenuity learns how to control these deadly creatures. I recommend for fans of fantasy and young adult fantasy novels.

Opening Sentence: Don’t trust the fire, for it will burn you.

The Review:

The Queen of Blood is the beginning of a new series by Sarah Beth Durst called The Queens of Renthia. The novel follows the story of Deleina as she learns to control the spirits that control the land around her. The Queen of Blood is billed as an adult story but it really did feel like a young adult novel. There are some themes that make it a bit edgier, especially the level of violence but I honestly feel it is no edgier than Sarah J. Maas’ novels. (I actually think those novels are a bit more edgy than this was.)

First off, I feel like I should describe the world that the characters live in. This is a world where humans are not the top of the food chain. They think they are but they are not. There are six main spirits that make up the land. Fire, ice, water, air, earth and trees. In my mind, I see these spirits as looking more like faeries or pixies but in reality these spirits are humanoid to an extent. They vary in size and shape. Each one can look like the different animals found in nature. These spirits have only one driving desire: To kill humans. They hate humans with a passion. The only thing keeping the spirits in check is the Queen. There are five Queens that control the spirits within their lands’ borders. The Queen’s hold the ultimate power to control the spirits and keep them from killing the humans that live there. There are other humans that have power to control the spirits, these people also vary in power level but unfortunately most humans can’t control the spirits at all.

There are three characters that the story follows in The Queen of Blood, each one gets their own POV’s as the story plays out. Deleina is the character the story mainly follows as she grows up learning how to control her powers over the spirits that make up the land that the humans live on. As a child, Deleina survived the slaughter of her town only because of the control she wielded to keep the spirits from killing her and her family. Deleina is not all-powerful. (Although we do meet the character who is during the course of this novel.) Deleina often struggles with her control over the spirits. She gets by because of her ingenuity and her smarts. She often doubts herself and her place in the world but then she remembers why she is doing it all for in the first place: To protect her family. Deleina is one character that I really respected. She comes from a good place and her reasons to become a candidate for Queen make her someone that other people should respect. I will say that she does do something pretty terrible but in the end it is a decision that she doesn’t take lightly as lives are at stake. The reasoning why I think this seems like such a young adult book is because the events take place when Deleina is ten years to eighteen years old.

Ven is the badass Champion that ends up picking Deleina as his candidate to become Queen. As a Champion, Ven is a warrior that knows how to fight off the spirits. His first duty is to protect the Queen and then his second duty is to find someone who can take her place when she inevitably dies. He trains Deleina in all things practical so she knows how to deal with the spirits. Ven, Deleina and Queen Fara have a history that intertwines as the story goes on.

There are two side characters that I want to mention because I really want to know what happens to one and the other was just an awesome side character. Merecot is another girl who goes through training with Deleina in a Harry Potter type school that is used to train the students in the ways of controlling spirits. This school is dangerous and often deadly because spirits are irrational and not easily controlled. There are quite a few people missing limbs. Merecot is extremely powerful and disappears halfway through the novel. One line let me know where she ended up but I really want to know how her story plays out. She was such a wild card. She was mean and terrible but then she’d stick up for others even saving lives while she played up the bitch card. The other character is loved was a wolf named Bayn. He has such a personality that he felt like another human character. He understood everything and was an awesome wolf. He is a great companion to Deleina.

The Queen of Blood is a novel for fans of fantasy, young and old. The world is dangerous and crazy. It is a world I would not want to live in. The humans have gotten too comfortable that the Queen will protect them but what happens when the spirits decide they no longer need controlled. Queen of Blood is very much a novel about a girl learning how to deal with her powers and growing into a woman. As a reviewer, I can only speculate that each novel will be about a different woman in each of the five countries. I could be entirely wrong but I do know that I really want to read the sequel to find out what happens next.

Notable Scene:

“First Headmistress Hanna tried to convince me that I don’t want you, and now she wants to convince you that you don’t want me,” Ven said. Damn man sounded amused. “The fact is that you do get to decide, Daleina. It’s not only me choosing you; you must choose me as well.”

“Is this what happened with all the candidates?” Deleina asked. “When they came to see you. Did you try to talk them out of it?”

Her bright eyes were fixed on Hanna, and the headmistress shifted in her chair. She should lie, for the sake of the girl’s feelings, but under her gaze, it didn’t feel right. “This is an unusual case.”

“Because I’m a mediocre student, and he’s a disgraced champion?” Deleina turned back to Ven, and Hanna couldn’t help admiring the thread of stubbornness that ran through her voice. That determination, she remembered, was why she’d allowed a barely qualified girl to enter the academy four years ago. “Do you think I can help protect the outer villages?”

“Yes,” he said without hesitation.

“Then I choose him,” Deleina said.

Hanna looked from one to the other, at their identical mulish expressions. She sighed heavily. “Just tell me one thing, Ven: why her?”

“Because she knows why she’s here,” he answered. “She knows who the enemy is.”

FTC Advisory: Harper Voyager provided me with a copy of The Queen of Blood. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for Zoe Stewart (Zoe's All Booked).
296 reviews1,463 followers
November 25, 2022
This is the third time I've read this now and it continues to be one of my favourite books. I love everything about it, but the worldbuilding is what I love most. It feels like i'm right in this world when I'm reading it, and it's such a unique concept. I can't wait to read the second one again and finally get to the third book!
Profile Image for Katrin D.
287 reviews457 followers
September 30, 2016
Full 5*! I rarely give such a rating, but in this case, it is so totally deserved.

This is such an amazing book and a great beginning of what I am sure is going to be a classic.

Complete RTC!
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