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The Queens of Renthia #3

The Queen of Sorrow

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The battle between vicious spirits and strong-willed queens that started in the award-winning The Queen of Blood and continued in the powerful The Reluctant Queen comes to a stunning conclusion in The Queen of Sorrow, the final volume of Sarah Beth Durst’s Queens of Renthia trilogy.

Queen Daleina has yearned to bring peace and prosperity to her beloved forest home—a hope that seemed doomed when neighboring forces invaded Aratay. Now, with the powerful Queen Naelin ruling by her side, Daleina believes that her dream of ushering in a new era can be realized, even in a land plagued by malevolent nature spirits who thirst for the end of human life.

And then Naelin’s children are kidnapped by spirits.

Nothing is more important to her than her family, and Naelin would rather watch the world burn than see her children harmed. Blaming the defeated Queen Merecot of Semo for the kidnapping, Naelin is ready to start a war—and has the power to do it.

But Merecot has grander plans than a bloody battle with her southern neighbors. Taking the children is merely one step in a plot to change the future of all Renthia, either by ending the threat of spirits once and for all . . . or plunging the world into chaos.

415 pages, Hardcover

First published May 15, 2018

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About the author

Sarah Beth Durst

36 books2,599 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 495 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
May 16, 2018
I suppose I'll need Jastra's plan after all. Pity.
It would have been nice to avoid murdering anyone.

I have really enjoyed this series. I came to the end of The Queen of Sorrow and, aptly, felt a lot of sorrow at having to leave these characters behind. At least the author's note promises a standalone set in the same world - in Belene this time - so I will get to return to, and explore more of, Renthia.

I'm not sure why these books have a fairly modest number of fans compared to other fantasy novels. Perhaps the covers are not dazzling enough. Perhaps it is the lack of the usual tropes like love triangles, and such. Or perhaps it is the book's crossover appeal that makes it difficult to market. Though this series is as clean as any YA fantasy (indeed, far less graphic than recent Maas books), it feels more mature, the characters are older, and it is them - not the action - that drives the story.

This is a series about politics and scheming and the dynamics between powerful women. Daleina is a queen who has never really had enough power for the job; Naelin is extremely powerful but untrained and, more than any kingdom or spirit, the one thing she cares most about is her children, and she will sacrifice the world to defend them. And then there's Merecot.

Merecot and Garnah are the "villains" and yet, of course, they are so much more than that. And they are probably my two favourite characters. Merecot is ambitious and a touch sociopathic, but she is also charming and funny. Garnah is even more sociopathic and even more charming and funny. Merecot, once Daleina's school friend, is now a powerful enemy looking to steal Daleina's throne but... is there more to her than that?

I love the complexity of the characters and the relationships between them. The spirits allow this story to play out by creating additional drama, but the series is first and foremost about its characters and exploring their desires and motives. What is most important to them? What are they willing to give up to get what they want the most?

It's difficult to review a third book in a series I've loved because readers of the series are probably already sold on it, so I tend to give more of an overview and try to sell the series as a whole to potential new readers. I'll avoid talking about the story in this book and say instead: I highly recommend these books for fans of character-driven fantasy, those who want to explore a world where the characters live in giant trees and command spirits, and those who enjoy reading about tough, flawed women just trying to do their best and not screw up the world in the process.

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Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
May 22, 2018
The Queen of Sorrow is the third and final book in a very good fantasy trilogy focused on several strong women, queens of neighboring countries with the ability to control and direct the wild nature spirits that inhabit those countries. It’s a crossover YA/adult book and series that I recommend! *some spoilers for the two prior books*

There are currently two queens of the country of Aratay: the younger Daleina has most of the experience and knowledge; the older Naelin has most of the raw magical power. It’s a bit tricky but the get along fairly well. But there’s a third factor at play here: Daleina’s old school friend Merecot, now the powerful queen of neighboring country Semo, wants to take over Aratay, because of Reasons. Merecot decides that the best way to go about this is to kidnap Naelin’s two young children to force her cooperation. It doesn’t help that Merecot has the old ex-queen of Semo as her advisor, whispering vicious plans in Merecot’s ear.

When Naelin (the ultimate in Mama Bears) finds out her children have been taken, she goes out-of-control crazy. Cooler heads are begging for a diplomatic solution, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what Naelin will do.

I thought there were a few weaknesses in the way the plot lines all wrapped up, but overall I definitely enjoyed this read. The three main queens are great, nuanced characters. Daleina’s younger teenage sister, whose boyfriend died in an earlier book, meets someone new and decides to go to bat for the other team. It felt a bit like authorial fiat (gee, I really should include a gay character in this series). The mother of Daleina’s lover Hamon is now the official Queen’s Poisoner. She’s amoral and has no regard whatsoever for human life, but she’s terribly funny.

Full review to come, after it posts on Fantasy Literature.
Profile Image for Maggie ☘.
538 reviews658 followers
February 13, 2019
A satisfying conclusion to a unique, lovely but also slightly dangerous fantasy trilogy.

As always, I loved the world and how it expanded throughout the series, and am very interested to visit the island of Belene in the additional companion novel The Deepest Blue.

Although, to be a bit more critical: I did think the storyline of this one was not as good as in book two, or book one for the matter. I thought it was a bit weaker at some places here, plus All the same, the plot was still very grabbing, just not such a carefully constructed perfection as in book two.

The characters, all of them, are very dear to me. Especially all the intelligent, capable and formidable women of this series. And there's a lot of them! Plus of course Champion Ven, and Healer Hamon.

It was just such a lovely read, this series. And it deserves so much more notice. 4.75 stars
Profile Image for Taylor.
486 reviews138 followers
January 7, 2019
“I'm allowed to have new dreams.”


The Queen of Sorrow is the final book in The Queens of Renthia series, and I can say with confidence that this is one of my favorite series of all time.

I'm continuously baffled as to why these books aren't talked about as often as other popular fantasy series. The Queens of Renthia has everything you could ever want: beautfiully written action, a female-driven plot full of politics and suspense, compelling world-building, and characters you can't help but adore.

I can't reveal much about what this book is about for fear of spoiling the other two installments. However, I can say that The Queen of Sorrow is a tense, political fantasy driven by the conflict between two incredibly powerful Queens. It was riveting.

I've said this before in my previous reviews and I'll say it again. I love these characters. And I love that Sarah Beth Durst writes about all types of women. Daleina is a formidable, intelligent, moral leader who inspires me so much. Naelin is a badass woodswoman turned warrior who is the mother of two children (and she's AMAZING). Jastra is a sociopathic genius with incredibly grey morality.

And our main antagonist, Merecot, is fascinating. What an incredible woman to go up against Daleina. The push and pull of these two was magnetic.

We also get to see more and more of Renthia in this installment, which was a joy to read. Learning more about the history of this world and why nature spirits harbor ill-will towards humanity was interesting, and even emotional at times.

The Queen of Sorrow was a great conclusion to a series that I adore. While I didn't love this installment as much as the last two, this book was still a treat to read. I'm so ready for Durst's standalone set in Renthia that's coming out in 2019.

I urge everyone who wants to read a unique, lovely fantasy story to pick this series up. I adore it.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,634 followers
May 17, 2018
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/05/17/...

A couple years ago when I picked up The Queen of Blood, I had no idea it was going to grow into a series I would enjoy and love so much. Two more books later, the Queens of Renthia trilogy is now complete, and what an incredible journey it has been with this strong cast of powerful, fascinating women and the world of dangerous spirits in which they live.

In the first book, readers got to meet Daleina, a young Queen candidate who came from a humble background with less than stellar magical abilities. However, hard work and tragic circumstances ultimately led her to the throne of Aratay, her forest kingdom. Book two introduced us to another Queen, but Naelin is as different from Daleina as night is from day. Middle-aged and a mother of two, Naelin is naturally gifted with immense power, but without the years of formal training most candidates receive, her magic is raw and untamed. Unlike Daleina, she also never wanted to be Queen, content just to raise her family in seclusion and quiet.

It is highly recommended that you read the first two books before jumping into The Queen of Sorrow. While theoretically The Queen of Blood and The Reluctant Queen can be considered standalone companion novels, this third one on the other hand is the culmination of events from both and will tie everything together. Be aware that this review might also contain possible plot details for the previous books if you’re not caught up yet. Aratay now has two queens, and with Naelin sharing the responsibility of keeping the vicious spirits of the natural world at bay, Daleina believes her kingdom finally has a chance at peace. But then Naelin’s children are kidnapped and taken to neighboring Semo, a country ruled by none other than Queen Merecot—once Daleina’s friend and former schoolmate. Needless to say, their relationship has soured since Merecot tried to kill Daleina and take over Aratay, but it appears the Semoian queen is far from done with her scheming. Filled with a mother’s rage and sorrow, Naelin ends up tearing the land apart in her desperate attempt to take back her stolen children, leaving the kingdom in worse shape than ever before.

I just want to say I love these characters. Sarah Beth Durst continues to impress with her deep explorations into Daleina and Naelin’s personalities and motivations, and in The Queen of Sorrow, we also have the added treat of getting to know the series antagonist. Yes, the clever and manipulative girl we first met in The Queen of Blood before she was kicked out of candidate school has become a force to be reckoned with. I knew we hadn’t seen the last of Merecot, and I was glad this book gave her character such detailed attention. She now joins the ranks of my favorite complex villains of all time. Even though she is a megalomaniacal conniving narcissistic kook, you can’t help but feel for her. Despite her detached and calculating view of the world, Merecot’s twisted actions are ultimately all for the sake of her country and people.

And indeed, Durst examines how far each queen would go to achieve everlasting peace. For Merecot, it may be a numbers game. For Naelin, however, it’s her children’s lives above all others. One thinks with pure logic, while the other reacts with pure emotion. With Naelin having shown that she is willing to let the entire world burn as long as it means her own children will be spared, Merecot’s methods might even start to seem sane, and yet, I also believe it would be much easier to sympathize with the former’s viewpoint if you are a parent. At the end of the day though, it’s probably safe to say that neither queen possesses the qualities of a good leader, and so Daleina can be seen as the mediating force between their two extremes.

The author presents this trio of personalities so well, that I think it might be my favorite aspect of this novel, but I also adore the supporting cast and their relationships with the protagonists. There is some light romance involved, but I’m happy to say it’s only a small part of a bigger picture containing more complex and dynamic relationships. I enjoyed seeing how this concluding volume brought many of those connections to fruition, even the ones involving more minor characters. In fact, some of those peripheral characters ended up being my favorites, like Garnah or Hanna.

Bottom line, I think it’s safe to say if you enjoyed the first two books, then you will love The Queen of Sorrow. The book builds to an incredible climax and finale, one that will be intensely rewarding to readers who have followed the story since the beginning. All the characters have grown so much and have triumphed over so many obstacles and hardships, it’s hard not to feel a deep sense of joy and satisfaction at this beautiful conclusion even as I sadly bid farewell to the series. The Queens of Renthia has made me a fan of Sarah Beth Durst for life though, and I will look forward to her future projects with great enthusiasm.
Profile Image for Dianna.
707 reviews12 followers
July 27, 2018
This book was disappointing. I have multiple problems with the book, but the main one was that the author was leading up to something kinda cool, but it never happened and things just went right back to the way they were, with a queen in charge of each kingdom.

The first half of the book focuses on Naelin's children getting kidnapped by Merecot in her second attempt to take control over Aratay. Understandably, Naelin is extremely upset but eventually calms down and is convinced to solve it through diplomatic means. She goes to Semo to negotiate with Merecot for the return of her children, and though it seems the negotiations are going well, things don't end well and Naelin still isn't reunited with her children. And then the book takes a turn for the worst with the other plot thread that's randomly introduced, and that's where it really starts going downhill.

Like I mentioned earlier, I had major issues with the book:

My favorite book was definitely the first one in the trilogy. The second book about Naelin was just okay, and sadly this last book was underwhelming in every way.
Profile Image for Zala.
335 reviews61 followers
May 15, 2023
“You’re bound, for better and for worse,” Hanna said. “Think of it as a marriage.” An unhealthy marriage in which you’re only staying together for the kids.

My favorites in this book were Merecot and Ambassador Hanna, and my least favorite was Naelin. Yeah, Naelin. Usually a bad sign when you don't like the main character.

“[...] she hadn’t won any friends lately, with the spirit deaths and the earthquake and every other disaster she’d caused. She felt a touch of guilt at that [...]”
Uhh, maybe she should feel more than a touch of guilt for killing so many innocent people?

This really made me hate Naelin. I mean, super special, amazingly strong mother of spirits aside. She literally killed people while in grief over her children and ruined the harvest, which caused even more people to have a rough winter - or starve even. And yet, she's so much better than Merecot and doesn't even feel sorry. Meanwhile, Daleina (the much better queen) feels sorry for and holds a ceremony to honor all of those who died during her and Merecot's failed attempt at carrying out The Plan.

To not even mention Naelin being the fakest mama bear, again. She doesn't let her children play outside the castle in the heavily-guarded capital but lets them go far away from her in a small town close to the border, accompanied only by Bane (he's just one wolf, no matter how great he is) and the useless Renet. Logic.

“People would panic. Or have opinions. Either was inconvenient. She’d rather it be a done deal and then present their success to the adoring public, or else bury their failure as quickly as possible and shift the blame elsewhere.”

Merecot was a fun and cunning villain, but, for some reason, she listened to her very stupid advisor, former queen Jastra, who eventually does the most ridiculous thing only to further complicate the plot.

Ven nodded. “You won’t be going alone.”
“Aw, how sweet,” Merecot said. “You’ll both die.”

Honestly, I appreciated that Daleina did stuff without Hamon throughout the series, but Naelin simply must have Ven accompany her everywhere. Even when he's useless. And they're the most boring and annoying couple ever. Then another lame couple appears; instead of giving us more time with Arin and Cajara, they're suddenly very close after traveling together for a few days.

It's too bad The Queen of Sorrow didn't focus on the more interesting parts of the plot: the true origin of spirits, the untamed lands, and learning to coexist with the spirits better (which Daleina and Cajara did explore a bit on their own). Instead, we got a rather slow first half of the book, which made me dislike Naelin, and then a lot of plot condensed into the second half, followed by a surprisingly neat conclusion that conveniently tied up all loose ends. I still love the world this series is set in, but this book was not my cup of tea at all.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,680 followers
March 18, 2018
Wildly unexpected and absolutely perfect ending to the trilogy. Sarah Beth's world-building is impeccable as always, and her characters are wonderful. Even when they're horrible and you want to slap them, they're so real they're still wonderful.

If you love fantasy and you haven't read this series yet, you are doing yourself a real disservice. It's adult, but I would readily give this to an older teen.
Profile Image for Amrita Goswami.
282 reviews32 followers
January 3, 2021
*spoilers for the series and the Deepest Blue*

I guess this is an unpopular opinion, but I felt like the series got progressively worse and worse. It probably didn't help that I read the Deepest Blue first, which, on second thought, has a few story elements in common with the first two Queens of Renthia novels . I think my biggest source of annoyance was Naelin's character.

I was SO IRRITATED by the fact that the author kept repeating how 'motherly' Naelin was a hundred times. Naelin was apparently not just a 'mama bear', she was superhuman in her ability to love her children ALL THE TIME. Even when they were being bratty or stupid or selfish, like children are wont to being. Even the fondest parents alive get irritated by their children sometimes. And the weird thing is that I'd hate to have a controlling psychotic mother like Naelin. Like, we get it, you want to be with your kids but you have a demanding job. My mother worked long hours when I was a young child too and although I missed her, I was and still am extremely proud of her. Naelin's children behaved like whiny little shits about her duties as the Queen ALL THE TIME. I just find it strange that Durst made the characters and relationships of Naelin, her children and even her ex-husband so one-dimensional and lacking in nuance. The previous books had real, believable characters with motivations that were not black and white. In fact, although I had liked Ven in the first book well enough, I started getting pissed off by his painfully juvenile characterization in this book.

And just to give you an idea of the sterling plot, Naelin's children .

I liked Daleina a lot more than Naelin, and it was enjoyable to read about her methods of using power because of the unconventional approach she'd take, whereas Naelin was just overpowered. Although I absolutely hated how people kept trying to 'protect' their loved ones by being controlling assholes.

And don't even get me started on Merecot. Despite the author attempting to give her character some good traits, I wasn't at all sympathetic. I wanted to shove her into a blender in the first book itself. I just wrung my hands in frustration when Daleina felt like 'she couldn't forgive Merecot, but she couldn't hate her either'. FOR FUCK'S SAKE, MERECOT TRIED TO POISON YOU, MANIPULATED HER SISTER INTO KILLING A BUNCH OF INNOCENT CANDIDATES AND INVADED YOUR COUNTRY INSTEAD OF HAVING A FRANK DISCUSSION AND SOLVING EVERYTHING. Queen Fara got a lot more flak for killing off people than Merecot, who's honestly just as bad or worse. Like seriously?! Did all the characters in the book just lose their common sense completely? Or maybe I've lost my common sense for even trying to read this drivel.

Also, I felt like Garnah was quirky in a very manufactured way. She didn't charm me at all but perhaps that was because I was so aggravated by the most of the other characters (Naelin! Merecot! Ven! Hamad or whatever his name was; I can't even bother to remember it). At least Garnah's characterization didn't make me grind my teeth in rage.

Oh, and all the romances made me want to gag. ALL OF THEM.

In fact, I think I liked the bloodthirsty spirits the most towards the end. I was rooting for them to devour everyone. That flying ermine spirit was really endearing. Sigh. There should've been more of the ermine spirit. Maybe that could have salvaged this series?

Ugh. I just feel angry and disappointed after reading this book. I'm just going to pretend that the second book was the last one in the series.


*end of rant*
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,157 reviews311 followers
July 7, 2018
DNF 48%

While I enjoyed the first two books of this trilogy, I am really struggling with this last book. I'm almost halfway through and it still feels like things are floundering and the story doesn't have much forward momentum. I am reluctantly calling it quits on this one.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
July 5, 2018
The conclusion of the Queens of Renthia trilogy sees the Queen of Semo again attacking the country of Aratray, this time by kidnapping the children of Naelin, with predictable consequences. Naelin will do anything to save her children and she's so powerful that Daleina has no chance of restraining her. But the Queen of Semo has a plan and boundless ambition, and both of the other Queens maybe playing into her hands.

Finally we see more of Renthia than just the forest country of Aratray and we get some understanding of why Renthia and its spirits are the way they are. However, the answers supplied here really lead to more questions, so hopefully there will be more novels that address this. (The next novel in Renthia is a standalone set in an island country, so I don't think the answers will come in that one).

Unfortunately, this was probably the weakest of the three novels and for me it felt very rushed. With so much detail being given to Aratray and the way it deals with Queens, heirs and Champions in the previous books, the much less detail here outside of Aratray feels very sketched in. The reason behind the Queens and spirits and Renthia in general also feels slight, and more than a little conjured-from-thin-air, with no good reason at all as to the mystery around it. "Because no one asked" is a ridiculous excuse.

This does wrap-up the trilogy, and reasonably so, but I'm a bit disappointed the quality hasn't flowed through from the first two.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,477 reviews1,895 followers
April 25, 2018
My head loves how The Queens of Renthia series unfolded post-book one.. but the problem is my heart is frustrated. Durst has crafted a very unpredictable series that blends YA elements with adult fantasy, violence and death, betrayal and hope, sacrifice and self-interest. She's created incredibly layered characters; so layered that they are so real and therefore not always likeable or easy to deal with. The main trio are the queens : our villain is sympathetic, the nurturer is hyper-focused with a devastating and painfully frustrating single-mindedness, and the one with the least power is left to pick up the pieces and balance out all the overcompensating harm being done. It's great in theory. But man did it piss me off. Mostly the middle one. Seriously, my 'chuck the kindle against the wall' urge was at the redline.

But. But. I did love so much of this. I loved how unresolved so much is. How there wasn't this big resolution, happily ever after. That there were consequences. Disappointments. And life goes on.

"Does your mother know Champion Ven is teaching you this?"
"It was her idea. She says even people who are smart and kind and careful sometimes have to stab things."

I've heard there's mumblings of a standalone to feature one of the other kingdoms in this Renthia world and I would definitely read on. I would be curious about other areas, other characters, and delighted to leave some of the less delightful elements behind like the baggage they are. I would also read the author again even if she branched away from this world. I really liked how she went about the story arc for this series. I just didn't always love the characters (particularly the children. I'm so over children) and these books did feel.. long. Not in a good way, really, either. But overall I'm satisfied with the non-end ending, even if I can't (won't) rate this one any higher than what I've given it.

3.25 "forgive her. she suffers from a medical condition known as Horrible Personality" stars

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Profile Image for Lucie V..
1,014 reviews2,069 followers
March 9, 2022
✅ Magic
✅ World-building
✅ Characters
✅🆗 Plot
✅🆗 Pace

It has been so hard to finish this book with the back to school rush... This is probably why I gave it 3 stars, I could not get into the story as much as I did in The Queen of Blood or The Reluctant Queen. I am pretty sure that I will enjoy The Queen of Sorrow more when I take the time to read it again when I have more time so it won't take me three weeks to finish it.

This series was a very nice discovery for me, I enjoyed it more than I expected and I am sad to leave the characters behind, but it was a good end. Not too rushed and not too cheesy. I think three books were just enough to make us really enjoyed Renthia and its wonders, but a fourth book would have dragged the story uselessly.

The Queen of Blood ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Reluctant Queen ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Profile Image for Meli  .
1,103 reviews202 followers
February 25, 2020
Daleina wird immer besser in ihrer Rolle als Königin. Sie ist zwar nicht so mächtig wie Naelin, aber geschickter, bedachter und versteht auch die Geister immer besser. Die ältere Königin Naelin hingegen ist eine Naturgewalt, hat es aber nicht so ganz unter Kontrolle. Sie agiert eher impulsiv, auch wenn sie langsam lernt, wie sie sich eigentlich verhalten sollte. Auch wenn Naelin als "Mutter" bezeichnet wird, denkt sie als erstes an das Wohl ihrer eigenen Kinder, während Daleina immer das ganze Volk im Blick hat. Das führt durchaus mal zu Meinungsverschiedenheiten.

Königin Merecot sorgt auch wieder für viel Wirbel. Man muss sie nicht unbedingt böse nennen, aber sie ist ziemlich skrupellos wenn es um das Erreichen ihrer Ziele geht. Es ist aber auch irgendwie süß, wie sie so oft überrascht ist, wenn sie auf selbstlosere Charaktere trifft und diese nett zu ihr sind.

Der Vorgänger ist schon wieder eine ganze Weile her, aber ich habe sehr gut in die Geschichte gefunden. Die Welt ist wieder magisch und bietet mit den Geistern wieder viel Spannung. Hier sieht man auch ein bisschen mehr von den anderen Ländern und erfährt auch mehr über die Vergangenheit des Landes. Der Klappentext hat für meinen Geschmack schon wieder etwas zu viel verraten und die vielen Perspektiven haben auch viele Einblicke gewährt, da hätte es gern etwas geheimnisvoller sein können.

Letztendlich hat es mir aber gut gefallen. Die Konflikte zwischen den Königinnen und den Geistern waren spannend und viele Punkte wurden hier schön abgerundet. Die kleinen Einblicke in die anderen Reiche und das Ende, das noch so viele Möglichkeiten offen lässt, machen auch Lust auf mehr, obwohl das schon das Ende der eigentlichen Trilogie ist.

Die Welt der Geistern in "Die Geisterkönigin" hat mir wieder sehr gut gefallen. Ein schöner Abschluss der Reihe, der aber gern noch einen Ticken spannender hätte sein können.
Profile Image for Ari.
940 reviews1,314 followers
April 29, 2018
This might be a case of "it's not you, it's me", as I couldn't read it in one sitting and I felt disconnected from the action and the characters mainly because of that.

Also, the ending did not work for me - don't get me wrong, it's where I rooted for the characters to get after all the struggle, but in a way it seemed that all the plot up until then (regarding a particular important character in particular) was - in a way, pretty much - pointless. Not to mention convenient.

On the good side, I still love the world. The story hints to other possible threads and I would love to see where all that would lead. Some parts were edge gripping and I really wanted to see how everything will unfold. There were some very interesting characters, I am sorry that there was not enough time (once again) for more character development. I am still taking the spirits' side, as humans treated them so badly at times, it's no wonder they wanted to destroy them all. I was glad to see that some of the characters felt the same.

On the other side, some of the major decisions where based on blind - and stupid!! - trust, which seemed naive and utterly absurd in the context and it frustrated me to no end.

Anyways, I am so glad that I discovered this series, as it was different than the average fantasy stories and it felt refreshing in more than one way. I still grieve for the lack of better development in terms of characters and dynamics between them, but that's just me.
362 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2018
The Queens of Renthia: 3

Ugh. I really don't like stories with realistically whiny children. I don't find it understandably cute or adorable, just extremely annoying. This is a frustrating read having to put up with Naelin's out of control rage and grief, which are blinding her to her greater responsibilities. Daleina again takes a backseat in this story pretty much, unfortunate, because I find her the more likeable character. Naelin prioritizes her children over all else every single time - a good trait for a mother, a disastrous one for a queen. She is so aggravating and faithless. She mistreats spirits on a whim, using and abusing them all in the name of her children. She's an awful person. This is the end of the trilogy, so the major plot threads are nicely wrapped up, and because this is targeted YA, everyone who's still alive lives happily ever after. Meh. Worthwhile read to finish the set, but I found it more frustrating than enjoyable.
Profile Image for Angela.
419 reviews923 followers
August 23, 2022
This book made me want more from this series and that's probably why I don't rate it as high as the earlier entries even though I had a really fun time. I either wanted this book to be 50-100 pages longer or for this to be a four book series. There are questions about the world that were brought up and I want more answers too and I just felt like some of the climatic things at the end were a bit rushed for my taste. That all said this was the perfect cozy audio book experience for me and exactly what I needed in the chaos that was my spring of 2022 and I will be reading more by this author!
Profile Image for Courtney Stofko.
336 reviews13 followers
January 4, 2019
I feel like two stars is kind of harsh, but I honestly don't think I could rate this any higher than three stars.

I've always felt that Sarah Beth Durst's writing is kind of weak compared to some other authors I've read, and throughout this series, I've always debated with myself whether to continue the series or not.

What has always brought me back is Daleina. I absolutely love that the person who is not the strongest, is not the most powerful, but is actually the hardest worker, the most intuitive, the most resourceful, is the queen. What's even better is that she knows her faults, she accepts them, and she's still a great queen.

I didn't enjoy the second book in the series as much because I didn't particularly care for Naelin. I like that she's a strong, independent woman who shows that a mother can be strong and powerful too. However, I didn't like her nearly as much as Daleina. But, while I didn't enjoy it as much, and I debated with myself whether to continue this series, I decided to finish it out. Bad decision.

Which leads to the biggest problem of this book. The focus of this book is essentially broken into three for the three main queens: Daleina, Naelin, and Merecot. I already established that I didn't care for Naelin to begin with, and this book made her about ten times worse.
"Of the two of us, I think it's clear which of us is more selfish. I care about the fate of thousands of people, yet you would have given up all your power, abdicated the throne, left Aratay in danger, for the sake of your children."

I don't like Merecot, but she has a point. I'm not a mother, but even I understand you have a certain bond with your children, and you would do anything to keep them safe from harm, so of course Naelin would do whatever she could to save them. However, she lets thousands, hundreds of thousands, suffer because she lets her emotions rule her and doesn't think things out. Naelin could have been a hero, a really amazing and enviable character, that shows you can be a great mother, a strong woman, and be able to take care of thousands of others, but Durst make her seem like a child.

This leads to Merecot. Merecot is the child so desperate for attention that when she finds something she's good at, she has to keep doing more and more to garner more attention until she's finally the best of the best, and then, even that isn't enough. For someone who has written such a fantastic character of Daleina, Merecot is a really shitty character. Using the quote from above as an example, she is completely full of shit. She acts the role of the martyr, when in reality, she just loves being the savior. She thinks of saving all of her people only because this leads to them loving her.

Now, I get where the author was going with this. We keep hearing time and time again that Naelin and Merecot are so much more powerful than Daleina, and of course SPOILER, it comes down to Daleina is still queen because she's actually the best queen of these three. It shows that power isn't everything, and that the people who are generally the best rulers are the ones who don't want to be. I get why Sarah Beth Durst did this, however, it made this a real slog to get through this book. I freaking hated Naelin, Merecot wasn't much better, and being forced to read them for 2/3 of this book was honestly painful.

Then add in the ridiculous amount of ever-changing story lines: SPOILER Naelin's children have been kidnapped! Wait, they're okay! Merecot wants Naeline to abdicate. Wait, other idea! Naelin and Ven are married! Wait, the children are taken, again! The children and Bayn are in the untamed lands, they'll never survive! Wait, there are humans surviving in the untamed lands! They need heirs, Daleina sends letters to other queens! The letters never get there! Mercot can eliminate the spirits and Daleina can abdicate this time! Wait, that's not happening! We need a new queen for Semo! Etc. Etc. Etc.

Then we add in random things that feel absurdly rushed, like some new girl taking over Semo, the fact that Arin is in love with her, even though we don't really hear about this (maybe we did and I missed it. It is entirely possible. I kind of flipped through the last 30% of this book), and killing off Naelin's husband (he was such a pathetic character that I don't even care to remember his name).

The only things I liked were Daleina (as always), I like Garnah and Hanna, and I generally liked the ending. I hated how we got to the ending, but once it was there, it was good. I liked how spread out everyone is and how everyone is contributing to running these lands and worlds.

I was really happy I was finally done with this series, and then I read the author's note saying that there's going to be a standalone book. Plus, thinking it over, the ending kind of hinted to another book in the series, or maybe starting a spin off series. Regardless, I can say with certainty this time that I am officially done with this series.
Profile Image for Colleen Houck.
Author 40 books8,988 followers
January 7, 2019
Loved this conclusion to the series. There were a few things that surprised me. Bane's backstory was particularly interesting and I'd love to read a prequel someday about him. I also loved how Daleina handled Merecot. It was very well done and showed just how queenly she's become over time. This world is a really fun one to explore and I hope we'll get to see a bit more of it someday.
Profile Image for Brittany.
900 reviews118 followers
December 22, 2021
4 Stars ✨

Great ending to this character driven series!! I absolutely loved Naelin she was an epic queen and an amazing mother 🥰. Going to miss all the characters from this series!
Profile Image for Ashley.
276 reviews3 followers
July 1, 2018
***contains spoilers***

I was sadly disappointed in this book. I LOVED book 1, and book 2 was a bit of a letdown, and now book 3 just made me unhappy. I do not care for Naelin. I didn’t like her in book 2 and she’s even more obnoxious in this one. I have a kid. Obviously I love said kid. But the way she obsessed over her kids is just overkill. (Literally. She kills the land because she can’t control her emotions and lets them influence the spirits, who destroy Aratay.) The whole main plot of the book is Let’s Save The Children! (I have to add that I can’t stand when adults write children in books. They are inevitably annoying and overwritten. These are no exception.) So ok, they go Save The Children. But wait, THEN they get kidnapped AGAIN and it’s Lets Save The Children! Part II. ugh

Daleina in book 1 was so likeable. There wasn’t enough of her in book 2 and in this book, she is flattened by the most boring character ever: Hammon. All the weddings and happily ever afters made me cringe. Arin and that Cajara chick? Where did that even come from?

My biggest disappointment in this book was that nothing with the spirits was solved. Merecot was a baddie, yes, but she had grandiose plans that were never realized. The fact that it just wasn’t doable because she wasn’t strong enough seemed like a weak excuse not to fully flesh out a believeable ending. What was the purpose of giving the spirits a voice? A history? Traveling to the untamed lands and finding the Great Mother’s grave? Why explain that Bayn was an evolved spirit and go into detail explaining the purpose of his protecting queens, if not to give the reader an idea of what the other spirits would look like after Merecot, Daleina and Naelin used their power to help them evolve?!

I wanted so much more from this ending that just wasn’t there. ☹️
Profile Image for Rissa.
1,420 reviews47 followers
June 1, 2018
The queen of sorrow 4.85⭐️

We follow our newest queen and her reign. I love seeing how she rules and the way of the spirits and all the problems along the way.

You have too many queens.
We have too many spirits.

Husbands and new loves, finding her children and ruling the kingdom.

From The humor and drama, down to the unique magical world its just beautiful.
Profile Image for Catherine.
406 reviews136 followers
November 9, 2019
1) The Queen of Blood ★★★★☆
2) The Reluctant Queen ★★★★☆

"It would have been nice to avoid murdering anyone."

This trilogy is an underrated gem in the world of fantasy and if you're reading this review and haven't read it yet, get started! I won't remind you of the amazing world-building, magic system, characters, the great writing and storylines, I already talked about it in my previous reviews and you can find the links right above.

To be objective, while this third book is definitely great and a more than satisfying ending to this trilogy, I admit it's my least favorite. Since I gave the same rating to each book, the second one was my favorite, both because of the amazing storyline and the amazing characters, including the new ones. Among other things, it introduced one of my two favorite characters in this trilogy: Naelin (the first one being Daleina from the first to the last book). However, I don't think the author handled well her children's storyline in this book, which is a shame, and of course it affected Naelin's own storyline. It just didn't feel as powerful as in the second book. The most interesting characters in this conclusion were for me Daleina (of course) and Merecot, which makes Daleina the most interesting character (in my opinion) of the trilogy as a whole.

However, it's still a four stars rating. It's a great conclusion and ending a trilogy or any book series perfectly is difficult. Mostly, I'm sad to leave Aratay, this world of spirits, the politics and scheming and the amazing cast of characters, especially the female characters that are represented in all their complexity, including in their relationships. But relieved that, with The Deepest Blue, it's not the end of this universe. I look forward to go to Belene and I really hope it won't be the end.
Profile Image for Aleshanee.
1,450 reviews100 followers
December 28, 2019
Ja, so richtig weiß ich gar nicht, was ich zu diesem Finalband sagen soll ... ich war ja sehr begeistert von den ersten beiden Bänden und bin jetzt richtig enttäuscht muss ich zugeben.

Deshalb muss ich dieses Mal auch etwas SPOILERN! ACHTUNG!

Profile Image for Betine Leesih.
68 reviews12 followers
November 30, 2020
It's official: This is One of the series that I love the most!

I love these characters SO much that the biggest problem with this book is that it doesn't have more of them together. I wanted to see a lot more of Dailena and Ven, they are perfect, she is one of my favourite characters ever! She proves that is not power what does a good and strong character and he is so good when they two interact.

This book is a little slower pacing than the first two in the series, and the immersion in the world building was not satisfactory for me, I wanted more of it too, even if I can tell this is a author choice, she choose to focus on the characters.

But the end is so good! I already miss everyone in the book... We have a middle aged mom and a main character powerless, also, we have the cutest children and a dog (well, wolf, but you know what I mean)...

Sarah Beth Durst wrote a great series that I highly recommend! It is original, the magic system is unique and every character is strong in their own way.
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,353 reviews158 followers
December 30, 2019
Queen Daleina has yearned to bring peace and prosperity to her beloved forest home—a hope that seemed doomed when neighboring forces invaded Aratay. Now, with the powerful Queen Naelin ruling by her side, Daleina believes that her dream of ushering in a new era can be realized.

And then Naelin’s children are kidnapped by spirits.

Nothing is more important to her than her family, and Naelin would rather watch the world burn than see her children harmed. Blaming the defeated Queen Merecot of Semo for the kidnapping, Naelin is ready to start a war—and has the power to do it.

But Merecot has grander plans than a bloody battle with her southern neighbors.

3.5 stars. Overall I liked this book, and I struggled to give it a rating. In the end I decided not to give it a full 4 stars. The reasons for that are, first, it was an enjoyable book, but not one I had a hard time putting down. Second, Daleina was just way too trusting of Merecot and naive in the last book, and her continuing to want Merecot to be her friend after everything Merecot did was just stupid in my opinion. Third (minor spoiler here), I really wanted the problem with the spirits and humans coexisting to be completely solved, and I did not feel satisfied with the way that ended up.

I very much enjoyed most everything else about this book. Ven and Naelin where written very well. They ended up being my favorite characters in the series, and I liked how things ended up for them. I liked how things ended up for most of the other characters in the book as well. I enjoyed reading about the different kingdoms in Renthia and what they were like, even if a few of them were very brief glimpses. This series definitely could have been expanded and made into more books about those kingdoms, but I'm happy with just the three. Though I do hear that there is a fourth standalone book set in the same world.

This series as a whole is very good, and I have to say that the cover artist did an amazing job on the covers for this series. The covers are one of my favorite things about it. As a whole, I would probably rate the series 3.5 stars. The main thing I felt was missing to push it up to the 4 star range was relationship development. I liked the romance between Ven and Naelin, and although it wasn't done great, I thought it was developed well enough, and I felt the chemistry between the characters. However, I thought the relationship between other characters, was not so well developed. I never felt much chemistry between Daleina and Hamon. To top it off, he was way too overprotective, to the point of being annoying. I laughed when his mother called him a mother hen, because that was what I thought about him. Then there was the relationship between Erin and Cajara that just came completely out of nowhere. Talk about insta-love. I would have bought a great friendship more than I bought the insta-love thing.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader
Profile Image for Johanna.
85 reviews284 followers
June 28, 2021
3.9 ⭐️

The Queens of Renthia is a simple fantasy story set in a whimsical forest. While I enjoyed my experience reading this trilogy, I would not recommend this for all fantasy readers. Not to say male readers wouldn't enjoy this series but emphasis on a female cast made me feel as though Durst wrote this with female readers in mind. While this trilogy is marketed as both adult and YA, I would suggest putting this in the YA category. While Naelin, the wonderful mother character introduced in the second book, may appeal to adult audiences, I think the trilogy has greater YA-appeal with singularly motivated characters and clear tropes and themes. Although the plot was straight-forward and the writing style leaned more towards telling rather than showing, these elements worked well in this trilogy.

While I enjoyed this third and final installment, there were a few things that didn't appeal to me.
Profile Image for Nora Martinez.
221 reviews22 followers
February 23, 2019
UPDATE: The spinoff book to this series, titled The Deepest Blue, will be published March 19th, 2019!

**5 stars**
Sarah Beth Durst gave me everything I wanted from this final installment of The Queens of Renthia and then so much more.

I want to start out by saying that there's no author I admire more than the author that can take several steps back from their ego to acknowledge important criticism that's relevant to how marginalized people enjoy fiction. The author that can stop and say to themselves and their publishers, "Okay, I can do a lot better for my readers," is the author I can whole-heartedly respect. I am fairly certain that Durst had this conversation with herself because even from Book 1 I could feel her dedication to diversity and to moving away from Traditional Fantasy, which has been dominated primarily by straight, cis, white male writers since even before the 20th century. As a result, Traditional Fantasy has ended up representing a small minority of what is actually a large and diverse mass of readers.

It's of course not impossible for readers who aren't straight, white and male to relate to fantasy books that don't feature them, it's just not as meaningful. Literature is such a powerful force in our world; classics are therefore read over and over again for centuries for a reason. So we know how much of an impact a single book can have on a person's life, or a nation's politics or the world's shared moral compass. Books are especially impactful when a reader sees themselves in that world, or feels like they're allowed to be a part of that world. In Durst's Renthia trilogy, the fascinating folk of Aratay or Semo are of varying ethnicities, skin colors, sexual orientations, etc. And Durst does it so well, so naturally. Many straight white authors/readers claim that writing racially and sexually diverse fantasy is difficult, and some say it's impossible because you should "write what you know." Well, if you don't know, authors, then educate yourself. Readers don't all look like you and don't all think the same as you. Like I said: literature is a powerful force. It can open and change minds, including your own. Sarah Beth Durst is a white woman in a heterosexual relationship, according to her biography on the book jacket. She wrote a wonderful story featuring an un-stereotyped woman of color as a lead, a mixed-race couple, a multitude of female friendships/relationships, several deeply developed male leads (one is a man of color), and the first healthy, non-sexualized or violent woman-loving-woman relationship I've seen in a mainstream fantasy book in maybe ever, all combined with fantastic world building, intriguing plots, and wonderful prose. Fellow white and cis authors: what is your excuse? You really should have none. A same-sex relationship doesn't have to be a plot device (it shouldn't—@ Sarah J. Maas), nor should a person having dark skin be a plot device. It's gross, don't do it. Please. Follow in Durst's footsteps.

Durst, in response to anyone saying "But how did you do it?"


On to the real review.

At first I wasn't sure if I was actually going to like The Queen of Sorrow. The plot picked up pretty quickly, so that wasn't the issue. Naelin was the one thing that was really getting on my nerves. BUT—this annoyance ended very quickly. You may be tempted to feel the same way about Naelin in this one at first as well, but Durst does a really great job of getting the reader to later empathize with the way Naelin handles certain events. One of Durst's greatest strengths is enabling her readers to fully understand a character's thoughts, values, motivations, etc.

As I mentioned, the plot picked up early on in the book, which is always a plus, and never slowed but never got too quick. It was the perfect pace, even at the end. Endings are always tricky but oh WOW did Durst really pull it off. There were tears streaming down my cheeks for the last twenty or so pages. Although Durst wasn't afraid to throw very scary (scary for me) perils at our heroes/antiheroes, everyone I wanted to get a happy ending got a happy ending... And so did someone else I hadn't really thought about too much before this book but ended up really, really loving and rooting for by the end. I won't spoil it, but I will say they're a she and apparently NOT straight. I prayed and was rewarded, folks. Durst did it. She wrote a gay woman. She's still technically a side character, but I mean I'm desperate over here... Parched from the lack of wlw relationships in fantasy, or fiction at all.

One of my favorite people in this one was Merecot, who really gets her pages to shine and be evil and sometimes morally grey and also really HOT. This trilogy is NOT lacking in the intimidating yet beautiful woman department. Daleina didn't get as much page time nor perhaps the proper attention in the overall narrative as well. I think maybe Headmistress Hanna had more page time, but I could be wrong. Which is not a complaint; Headmistress Hanna was a really awesome character to get inside the head of more often.

Multi-dimensional, intriguing, diverse women can be found left and right in The Queen of Sorrow, much like its predecessors but even better. The much-needed female relationships, romantic, platonic, or otherwise, were once again so refreshing. So, so refreshing. Honestly... This series as a whole is a breath of fresh air.

I am so excited to find out what exactly Durst has planned for Renthia next... This is the last book of the series, however, in the acknowledgement's Durst says, "I'll be diving back into Renthia to write a stand-alone novel set on the islands of Belene!" Um, YES PLEASE?! I seriously cannot get enough of this world. The entire spirits thing is so unique. (By the way, this book really goes in deep into the history of the spirits, and it's absolutely fantastic. I almost cried holy WOW.) Also, from the short bit in The Queen of Sorrow featuring the Queen of Belene, I now need to know her. I want to know everything about her and her land.

To wrap it all up, I just want to say again how much I admire Sarah Beth Durst and her commitment to good story telling and diversity. Her commitment shows. Finally, it's been a long while since I've been this pleased with a book, and I can say it feels good. Really good. Thank you, Durst.
Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
1,098 reviews806 followers
Want to read
December 16, 2017
This cover is lovely! The blue hues are absolutely perfect. I might hold off on starting the second book until close to this book's release date.
Loved the first book, own the second (TBR), so 99% I am gonna buy/read this lol
Profile Image for Insi Eule.
528 reviews47 followers
January 26, 2022
Endlich habe ich diese Reihe beendet, lange hat es gedauert...
Und leider muss ich sagen, dass es von Band zu Band immer schwächer wurde.
Vom ersten Band war ich ja ziemlich begeistert, der zweite Band hat mir auch noch gut gefallen, aber den 3. fand ich jetzt langatmig und zäh.
Nach wie vor mag ich die Idee total mit den Element-Geistern und den Königinnen, die diese in Schach halten. Schöne, kreative Weltgestaltung. Auch die Charaktere wieder zu treffen fand ich toll, weil ich die insgesamt echt mag. Das hat auf jeden Fall geholfen um dran zu bleiben.
Eine Protagonistin ging mir jedoch zwischenzeitlich schon etwas auf die Nerven, weil sie als Mutter ein bisschen zu sehr in dieser Rolle fest steckte und es gefühlt ausschließlich darum ging.
Sehr viel Handlung gab es leider irgendwie nicht.
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