Princess Esofi of Rhodia and Crown Prince Albion of Ieflaria have been betrothed since they were children but have never met. At age seventeen, Esofi's journey to Ieflaria is not for the wedding she always expected but instead to offer condolences on the death of her would-be husband.
But Ieflaria is desperately in need of help from Rhodia for their dragon problem, so Esofi is offered a new betrothal to Prince Albion's younger sister, the new Crown Princess Adale. But Adale has no plans of taking the throne, leaving Esofi with more to battle than fire-breathing beasts.
3.50 Stars. A good YA fantasy read. I just love lesfic fantasy books, and when you throw in dragon’s it just makes it all the better. However, this was not a perfect book for me. The premise was great, but this had a few misses when it came to execution. But overall I enjoyed the read and will read book 2 in this series.
Princess Esofi (I pronounced it Sophie but am not sure if that is right) has been engaged to the Prince of Ieflaria since she was a child. Now that she is 18, it is time to officially sign the marriage pact and live in Ieflaria. But during the four months journey to Ieflaria she learns the news the prince has died. Esofi knows she cannot return home so she must marry the second in line which happens to be the Princess Adale. Adale has never wanted to rule. The plans have always been for her brother to sit on the thrown, not her. But with pressure from her parents and increased dragon attacks, Adale must decide between marrying Esofi or giving up the crown and running away.
As I mentioned above, I really liked the premise but there were times it didn’t totally come together for me. There were a few times when there was too much info dumping; especially when it came to all the Gods and Goddesses. It was a lot of info to take in. I wish Calvin would have slowed down her approach. I did feel like I got everything squared away by the end, but it took a while. There were also subjects that were touched on but not really developed. The science versus magic debate and the sort of secret sect of one of the Goddesses that Esofi belonged to. Calvin teased these issues but nothing came of it. I don’t know if it was due to this being a series, or if she just abandoned the ideas.
When it came to the characters, I really liked Esofi. She was a real badass and some of the scenes with her battling the dragons were my favorite. I’m going to jump back to what I was saying about undeveloped ideas: Esofi brought a bunch of battlemages with her to fight the dragons. I was really looking forward to some big dragon, magic battles, but again nothing happened with that. There was plenty with Esofi and Dragons, but the army of battlemages was useless. Back to the characters, I did like the other main Adale, but something about her was missing for me. Esofi was so strong that she kind of eclipsed Adale in this story.
The romance is very PG, but it was sweet. I did enjoy the scenes with them together. I do have to complain about the ending though. Esofi and Adale really needed to talk and work things out, but it was sort of just passed over for a future scene with one of Adale’s super annoying friends. I wanted more of the couple working things out, not an annoying secondary character I was hoping was banned for good. Speaking of that annoying character, that is something I hope Calvin will work on. Her secondary characters need to be more fleshed out, they were all really wooden.
One thing I did really like, sexuality and gender was not an issue at all. Too many lesfic fantasy books the couples have issues due to their sex or who they love. It was nice to see for a change that it didn’t matter one bit.
I would recommend this book to fantasy fans. It does have some bumps, but overall it was a good read. I will not hesitate to read book 2, and I’m hopeful maybe a few of my current issues will be addressed in that book.
An ARC was given to me by NineStar Press, for a honest review.
I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
Real rating 3.5 stars, rounding up for the gay.
Short review: this was good and very gay and it had kittens, dragons and unicorns. You can stop here if that sounds like something you need in your life (and honestly, you can never have enough of all those things).
Slightly longer review: I liked a lot of the stuff in this, and that's also the biggest problem of this book.
Let me explain, but first let's talk about what I liked, because as you can see from my rating I did like it.
I liked the main characters Adale and Esofi. I liked them in their differences and on their own. Their romance was sweet, slow paced and even if there was miscommunication it was almost always resolved pretty soon and easily.
The world felt well researched and thought out, and I felt like if given more page time this could become something big and epic. Unfortunately, I think this is where the book fell short: there were a lot of elements that were interesting and I would have loved to see more of, but there just wasn't enough time to explore everything. I would have liked fewer elements but explored more deeply. One example of this is the science vs religion thing that was only briefly mentioned. The thing is, I can live with something being mentioned in passing, but the way this was shown felt like it was going to have a lot of weigh in the story, when in fact it didn't. The same could be said about other worldbuilding elements as well as the relationships between the main characters and secondary ones.
One thing I did love about the world was how absolutely not heteronormative this was. Everyone is pan and that's really cool, I 100% approve.
Overall, I liked it but I felt like too many things were shoved into it, with a world that was too big for 175 pages where we also had to get to know the characters and see a relationship develop.
Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read and it's definitely clear that the author has very good worldbuilding skills. I think with a bigger focus on fewer elements and more page time this could easily have been a five stars read.
Who doesn't love a good fantasy read with princess and magic and well dragons! The plot is pretty awesome too. But the execution is darn frustrating. When a novel is turn into a movie, everything is rushed like in Harry Potter movies. This novel feels like the movie version of the story. It seem like the writer is trying to finished the book within a fixed word count and a very short one too. I love the story, the plot and everything(come on even the cover is fantastic!), but I'll never get why everything was rushed or edited. I said edited because that how it feels like while reading it, like a part of the story/scene was just removed or cut off. I was very excited to read about the magic vs science part, I don't have a clue to why the writer brought it up in the first place if she wasn't going to actually go through with it. I had wanted to know why the God of magic left out Princess Adale and few other things, but instead there were lots of details on the different kinds of Gods which seem irrelevant to the plot. That made me even more frustrated because somehow the writer manages to include that in the story and fails to put the things that are much more relevant and needed to be there. If it were written as it is supposed to be I would have loved it very much and I'm even sure it would be a 5 star.
This is a really good nice light gay book, it has magic, dragons, a unicorn, princesses marrying princesses, and one of them upset the other and literally gave her a kitten as an apology! seriously everyone should do that
I liked the characters of both the princesses, Esofi and Adale. Esofi was hella badass, she was blessed with magic and fought dragons and had been preparing to be a queen ever since she was 3yo but she had kinda low self-esteem because all her life her mother gave her shit for being fat, so I was hella glad she came to Ieflaria where she was valued and even loved. Adale was a wild child. She loved to hunt and got drunk with her useless friends all night long. Being the second child, she never thought she'd end up becoming the queen.
The thing I liked the most about this book is that it was so not hetero, like everyone is pansexual there, that was awesome and thankfully, the author didn't make the characters go around fucking everyone in sight to let us know that they're pan, in fact the romance was very PG
I feel bad for giving this one such a low rating, but I just can't bring myself to give it 2 stars. The fact is, I did not like it. Here's why:
-Infodumping. The author has imagined this huge, detailed world, which is great. But we do not need to know about these details unless they are relevant to the story. The information is also conveyed in the most boring ways possible. For example, at one point, Esofi is lying in bed and it says something along the lines of, "As usual before falling asleep, Esofi thought about the gods." And then it goes and describes all of the different gods in their world. No one wants to read a text book. If the information is important to the plot, find a more interesting way to convey it to the reader; if it isn't important, then we don't need to know.
-Random, unimportant tangents (example: the Elves. They're randomly mentioned and described in the last quarter of the book for no apparent reason. Nothing comes of it.)
-Stupid dialogue. Seriously--dragons are attacking your town, you aren't going to calmly inquire how old a unicorn is.
-The prose was just BORING. Felt sort of like reading a list--things are happening, but the prose is so dry and monotonous that you can't get invested in any of it. Incredibly boring descriptions of the scenery and clothing. You can't *not* skim over it.
-The dragons don't make an appearance until more than half-way through the book. Sorry, but if the main conflict of the book is about dragons slaughtering people, I expect to see some of them.
-The story behind Adale's brother's death is kept hidden for so long that you expect the revelation to be earthshattering. And you expect that Adale was to blame for it. But, nope, he just fell off a cliff. The mystery behind that is cleared up in one short conversation. Why all the buildup?
-The twins were cliche. Adale was a moron. Esofi was stuck up.
-The whole plot thread about religion VS science was just dropped half-way through. Which is unfortunate because I wanted to hear more from both sides--how can you be an atheist when there is evidence of magic all around? How can you discount science when it's supported by logic? A discussion between the two main characters on this topic would have been fun. But...nope.
Overall, this book was a lesson in how not to write a book. I read an ARC from Netgalley, btw.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
The Queen of Ieflaria is fantasy novel about two princess falling in love and fighting dragons. I love the concept and I find worldbuilding to be fascinating, however, I can't say that I loved the book. Overall, it was an underwhelming reading experience. Despite all of the cool elements (sapphic princesses!!! dragons!!! magic!!!), I felt that the book lacked a spark and depth to the characterization and major conflict.
We follow the story from the pov of two princesses Esofi and Adale. Esofi travels to the kingdom of Ieflaria to marry the crown prince for political alliance between the two kingdoms, however the prince has died and now Esofi is to be married to Adale, who has become crown princess, Adale doesn't want to be a queen so things don't go smoothly. Esofi is my favorite character in the novel. She's badass sapphic fat mage and a princess.She's talented, she's serious and attentive. She's going to be such a good queen. As a common thing for her kingdom, she doesn't have a preference for gender of her partner/spouse. (Casual normalicy of queer relationship is definitely compelling.) On the other hand, Adale is the opposite. She used to have a lazy free life, doing nothing and having no responsibilities. For the most part of the novel, she's an eighteen year old behaving like she's ten. I was exhausted by her. To be fair, Adale does have her moments, when she stands against religious-fuled prejudice and when she becomes more helpful as she realizes that she should contribute to the fighting-dragons issue. Esofi can come up as too religious. She's not exactly close-minded but some of the things she says are alarming.
I like the complexity of religion system. The author includes different types of "common" religion in different kingdoms which creates the authenticy of it. However, the importance of gods and how the worship have direct connection to gifts was less interesting. I just didn't like it. Worldbuilding in general has many fascinating elements, from different states and nations, to different magical creatures and languages. However, it felt very introductory, the world lacked depth. The author includes all of the interesting pieces for no immediate gain to the story. I believe she's setting up for the sequels, though.
The supporting cast of characters is underwhelmingly flat. All of them are one-dimensional and extremely unlikeable. I was so convinced that one of Esofi's friends has secret agenda because of the way she was written. No, she's just a mean person. Although, in case of Esofi's friends, I could at least recognize their different cardboard types of personalities, Adale's friends are just three versions of Adale, minus status of crown princess.
The villains of the story are as well cardboard of every other villain.
I'd prefer the novel to focus more on romance or on plot, if we can't have both of the plotlines interesting enough. In the end, romance was patchy. I mean, we had several scenes between Adale and Esofi together in romantic context but they were far in between. I didn't get ~feels~. The plot was overall predictable, except few turns here and there.
For such a short novel, it took me three days to finish it because of how unengaging the book was.
Don't get me wrong,The Queen of Ieflaria is a solid three star read. The writing was good enough, the plot and the main characters were good enough, but nothing more. If you like fantasy and queer leading ladies, I would definitely recommend this book, I just wanted something more, I wanted to feel more, while reading the book.
I admit the ending was super adorable, why couldn't we have the whole book like that?
The Queen of Ieflaria is the first book in the fantasy romance series Tales of Inthya. The second book’s title hasn’t been announced yet, but it will follow different characters.
The two PoV characters and their romance were my favorite aspect of the book. If you’re looking for a slow-paced, sweet f/f romance between princesses with a sideplot about magical creatures, The Queen of Ieflaria is perfect for you.
I loved Adale. She’s not your typical rebellious princess who wants to fight or run away because she’s in love with someone else. She’s just not good at communicating with people, not good at following her tutors’ lessons, not good at understanding nuance in conversations – she doesn’t feel good enough to be queen. I really liked how this book showed that awkwardness isn't the only thing that matters: seeing your subjects as human is more important than etiquette. Adale is flawed at the beginning and is flawed at the end, and maybe will never be a perfect queen, but she isn’t alone. Esofi’s personality was, in many ways, the opposite of Adale’s. Esofi has been brought up knowing she will not marry for love, and she finds the idea of an arranged marriage almost comforting, which is uncommon – arranged marriage is usually portrayed negatively in fiction. Esofi knows how politics works; she’s born for this. She is a great magician, and good at many things Adale isn’t able to do, but she doesn’t know how different Ieflaria is from her own land.
Adale and Esofi made a cute couple and complemented each other; after the miscommunication at the beginning I found them adorable. I can’t say the same of the side characters, who were often underdeveloped and one-dimensional. The magical creatures were far more interesting (this book features dragons and a unicorn).
After the slow beginning (the writing isn’t heavy, but often it tells instead of showing and there were some infodumps), the book grew on me. The worldbuilding wasn’t as developed as I would have liked, but the concept was great – not only same-gender couples are common, the world is also pan-normative and trans-inclusive. Most supposedly queer-inclusive fantasy books seems to forget that trans people exist, and while there were no major trans characters in The Queen of Ieflaria, there is a non-binary god and some non-binary minor characters. Also, magical transition is possible.
The magic system isn’t explained in detail, and the theme of the conflict between magic and science could have been developed more – it would have taken Esofi’s arc further, which would have been interesting – but I understand why the book was focused solely on the romantic plotline.
TW: fatphobia and fat shaming (Esofi is fat); brief mention of suicidal ideation (Adale, at the beginning).
I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed this read and will have to agree with my Goodread friend Lex that Esophi is on bad@$# b!%&h and honestly the story though about both characters seemed to center around her more because of the dragons and magic. I kind of wanted Adele to be something more and honestly at first saw her like a Robin Hood type of character with the hunting and supposed drinking with her merry band of outcasts. Sadly, though I would have loved that, it did not seem to take that shape. I am happy with how she did seem to grow up a bit in the book...I think I am babbling. Anyway, I enjoyed the read and look forward to seeing what will happen in the future novels with the dragons, the twins, and Esophi's cousin (whose name escapes me but I know it's long and starts with an L).
This is an absolutely adorable and very sweet f/f romance featuring political marriage and magic and dragons. I did wish, because I am me, that we got to the marriage and the sex and so on, but I loved what we did get here: a delightful courtship, a great dynamic, and a princess fighting dragons. This was also the perfect antidote to my Too Many Dead Queer Fictional Ladies Malaise, and I am so happy to have read it when I did.
Ahhhh this book is so adorable! If you love high fantasy, court intrigue, dragons and sweet romance, then you really need to read this book. I finished it and made an actual, instinctive "Awww!" sound at the perfect ending! But I also can't wait to read more books in this series.
Princess Esofi of Rhodia has known since she was three that she would have to travel to wed Prince Albion of Ieflaria when she was 18. Unfortunately, when she finally arrives to marry him, she finds he was actually killed in a riding accident three months ago...so if the alliance between the kingdoms is to be sealed, she'll have to marry his younger sister instead. Esofi is disappointed (because she'd really liked Albion through their letter-writing) but more than willing to do her duty; unfortunately, Princess Adale is a hot mess who's terrified of becoming queen and desperately wishes her parents would give her inheritance - and her new fiancée - to someone else.
Calvin pulls off a really impressive writing feat by making Adale somehow likeable in the beginning of the book despite her TOTAL hot-mess state. Adale starts out the story being hopelessly immature and irresponsible, inarticulate and drowning in self-hatred and fear (blaming herself for her brother's riding accident and KNOWING she'll never be the great ruler he would have been), while Esofi is just AWESOME - confident, smart, persuasive and deeply responsible, a skilled mage and dragon-slayer with a real vision to change her whole world for the better. However, as the book continues, we start to see Esofi's own natural weaknesses and flaws - and how beautifully Adale can actually balance those out and help her overcome them, even as Esofi prompts Adale to look past her personal pain and rise to her own new circumstances. They're a truly perfect partnership after all.
And then the dragons arrive. THE DRAGONS!!!! Ohhhhh do I love the dragons in this book. I can't say very much about them because most of the actual dragon meetings happen in the second half of the book and I don't want to give spoilers, but: I LOVE THESE DRAGONS. And I adored the way that both Esofi and Adale rose to that particular challenge, too!
Both girls are 18 - full adults and ready to get married by their society's standards, but certainly not too old for this to work perfectly as a YA novel OR for adults. The romance never gets more physically intense than kissing - but oh, the romance is so sweet! By the end, I was DESPERATE for them to be together.
Highly recommended! And I'll be preordering the next book in this series the moment it's available.
I'm going to have to go with the official goodreads description for two stars on this book: it was ok.
I wanted to love it. Forced/arranged marriage is one of my favorite things. But there were just a whole lot of little things that bothered me, and ruined me doing more than sort of liking it.
*I find it really hard to believe a princess of Esofi's caliber doesn't automatically travel with mourning clothes. That's like SOP for royal families, the president's family, etc.
*I never really understood how all the gods/goddesses work, or why all these different countries/cultures worship the exact same ones.
*The Silence of the Moon seemed like it was going to be something important and interesting but it turned out to be absolutely nothing
*The whole magic vs. science thing was SO INTERESTING and I thought, awesome, here's another way for them to clash/learn to grow/improve the kingdom together. But after like two pages it completely vanished.
*I never felt the romance. They say they love each other at one point and I'm like ??????? There was no pacing, no build, nothing. Just they basically don't know/don't like each other, then suddenly Adale wants to marry her, kisses her hand, and Esofi is in love.
*I was super excited about the Change, and the idea of societies that are fluid/open-minded when it comes to gender. But then it's never wholly explained, never comes up actively in the story, and by the end it doesn't even matter because the author dropped that thread/copped out on that too.
*Honestly the whole trend of this book is that interesting things are introduced, then they fizzle out and never come to anything.
The book would have been much stronger if it had picked a focus and stuck with it. I wish it had just focused on the romance - on Esofi learning to chill, on Adale growing into becoming a queen, and them learning to rule together. Instead it just felt largely like a rough idea about dragons that was badly stitched with other things, into a frustrating whole. Like a wonderful meal was put in front of me, I got a tiny bite of each dish, and then everything was taken away.
*Lastly, it ticks me off that it's the slender chick that was chosen for the cover. Even though she doesn't really dress that way by choice on a daily basis, prefers not to dress that way at all, in fact. But the publisher/author still chose to put the skinny chick in an out of character dress on the cover instead of the fat princess who loves to wear pretty dresses.
Meh. Sorry to everyone who loves this book, but it fell into a trap I find f/f novels do with disappointing regularity: we get that queer romance we've always wanted, but it comes with basically no chemistry.
That's what it comes down to for me - this fantasy setting isn't particularly innovative, but there's nothing wrong with that if it's being used to tell a good story. Here, I just felt like the heart of the story was meant to be the relationship between Esofi and Adale, but they both sort of came off flat and their romance had very little emotion in it. Add on top of this an ending which felt just a bit too tidy, and I guess I just came out wanting more.
Not a bad way to pass the time, but I feel like at this point it's reasonable to expect more depth from our gay books.
I really wanted to like this book. I've been reading a little more fantasy lately and the blurb sounded good. However...it was really really long. Yes, this from the person that has complained recently about lesfic books being too short. But there was a ton of "god" stuff in there that really only confused the hell out of me and wasn't even really relevant. Esofi was the only main character that was really well developed. The other, Adale was just a spoiled brat and really didn't change much. I almost DNF'd a couple of times. In the end, the plot was suddenly resolved.
All in all, it was a very just OK read for me. 2.5 stars rounded up because any world created where non-binary folks are common and welcomed into society deserves a round up.
Arc provided from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I am a withered old crone now, clearly, because my main response to this slight and frothy romance between two teenaged princesses was mostly just "children, it has been like two days, you are not in love and you two need to focus on the IMPORTANT THINGS like SAVING YOUR PEOPLE FROM DRAGONS and GOOD GOVERNANCE." Also the ratio of clunky exposition to actual romance was way off.
This. Is. So. Good. I absolutely loved this lovely fantasy about FAT PRINCESS who is negotiating a marriage contract with a TOMBOY PRINCESS. Also DRAGONS. This was everything I wanted and I loved it. The magic system was unique and fleshed out, the characters were loveable and intriguing, and the romance was excellent. I cannot wait for book two! The only reason this wasn't give stars is that the middle was a little slow for me but that aside I am so into this series.
The Queen of Ieflaria, by Effie Calvin, is the first book in a fantasy series. Esofi, a princess of Rhodia, has been betrothed to Albion, the heir of Ieflaria, since they were young children. When Albion dies in an accident, Esofi travels to Ieflaria with the intention of marrying the new heir, who turns out to be Adale. Adale, as second child, had never intended on becoming queen and, as such, is found lacking, enough that her two cousins throw their hats into the ring for becoming heir and, consequently, Esofi's betrothed. There's also the small matter of dragons attacking Ieflara and the Ieflarian people not having strong enough magic to repel them. Esofi is a gifted mage and has brought Rhodian battlemages with her to help Ieflaria fight this threat.
Oh, man. I really wanted to love this. The synopsis sounded very cool, and I always enjoy reading fantasy books that focus on women. Let's start with the things I liked about this book. My favorite character was Adale because I have a soft spot for characters without a lot of confidence. She doesn't want to be queen, and she often feels like she's not good enough. She's not the heir that Albion was. She can't be as good a ruler as her parents or her cousins. Although her characterization is a little weak--in that everyone says she's a terrible heir, but we never really get evidence of it--she's fun to root for and grows in confidence as the story goes on.
Calvin also presents an inclusive world in terms of sexuality. Gender isn't an issue for Esofi when it comes to choosing an heir. There's a non-binary god and their non-binary followers. There's also a ritual called the Change that allows people to change genders, "though it wouldn't last for very long unless the person being transformed had a soul that was willing to remain in its new body forever."
The dragon attacks and the idea of creating a university to train users of magic were cool. Calvin does some unexpected things with this plotline. I also really enjoyed the tension between magic and science, and I think it could've been explored a lot more.
However, overall, I don't think this manuscript was quite there. There were details that should've been seeded way earlier in the story so that their first mention wasn't just before they became important to the plot. All the side characters are pretty one-dimensional. Esofi says one character is "quiet and gentle" and that "she knew she would always feel safe with him" even though we never see anything to back that up.
The humor feels off, too. When Adale hears Esofi's introduced a new clause to their betrothal agreement, she assumes it's a ban on her drinking. It's played off as funny, but we never see Adale drinking to excess, especially not in a detrimental way. At one point, Esofi is injured, and one of her maids says, "Do focus on recovering, Princess. I need you to get well enough for me to be able to slap you." Far from making me laugh, passages like this made me cringe.
The logic is shaky at first. In the beginning, I was willing to skate over the fact that Esofi has traveled for months to get to Ieflaria's capital and has been preparing for her marriage since she was a child and yet she doesn't know who the next heir is. I would assume this was an attempt to amp up the suspense of the scene.
As the story goes on, this tenuous logic gradually unravels. One of Esofi's ladies maids is her cousin but speaks to her rudely, even more rudely than would be allowed by a member of the extended royal family. Another maid is actually a spy/assassin and has zero knowledge of diplomacy even though, again, this betrothal has been in the works for years. Surely, a woman can be trained in both covert intelligence and diplomacy over a decade or so.
At one point, it seems that Esofi is being stood up by the person she's chosen as her betrothed, and the servant gives her "a humiliatingly pitying look." But...how would a servant even know this person wasn't at a large gathering, and if they did know that, why would they care? It's an awkward attempt to play up Esofi's broken heart. Also, Esofi's expected to announce her choice of betrothed at a ball without telling the king and queen first. But why would a king and queen be content to let a foreigner pick her spouse from their kin without informing them of the choice in advance. Again, it seems like a blatant ploy to increase the tension of a scene rather than an obstacle that would crop up naturally from the plot.
Ultimately, I don't think this book knows exactly what it wants to be. Sometimes it seems like a character-driven romance with over-the-top baddies, but it doesn't quite dig deep enough into the characters to hit the mark. Other times, it feels like an action-adventure with dragon fights, but again, it doesn't quite sink its teeth into that category enough to really count as one. Although the story presents interesting ideas and can keep the reader entertained, I really think this manuscript could've benefited from another round of revisions to tighten up the world and the logic. I'd recommend it to fans of fantasy romance.
Thanks to NetGalley, NineStar Press, and Effie Calvin for the e-book in exchange for an honest review.
Interesting tale with political intrigue, dragons and a princess that doesn't want to rule, with a betrothed who has prepared her whole life for her arranged marriage.
Princess Adale is a rogue who hunts and parties, all around gallivanting about to do as she pleases without care, and doesn't take much seriously. She had assumed her fully competent older brother would reign over the kingdom, but when Prince Albion passes in an accident she is thrust to take over the lineage, and to take responsibility for the first time in her life. They want her to marry his already arrived betrothed, the Princess Esofi.
I liked that there was no question of gender in this decision.
The drama instead comes from the next in line to the throne, dragon attacks, and each main characters own doubts and vulnerabilities.
There's no sex scenes, it's all very tame with just a few kisses.
Sometimes the lore of the magical world and it's various kingdoms and their Gods and Goddesses with their powers and followers got a bit much to take in. Sometimes it seemed like an information dump, but I get that it being a first in a series meant information had to be conveyed, but sometimes it was a bit much. I would have liked to see more of the two princesses getting to know and fall in love with eachother. But I am a hopeless romantic.
I'm not sure if we will get updates on the couple in subsequent installments? But I hope so, and will continue the series of books, regardless since I enjoyed this one.
Esofi has been preparing for her marriage to Prince Albion of Ieflaria since she was three to benefit their kingdoms, but now the prince has died, she remains committed to the arrangement between the kingdoms and agrees to marry the next in line for the crown. Princess Adale is next in line, but no one seems too sure she is ready or willing, after spending her life wild and free, her favorite pastimes hunting and drinking. Ieflaria has no time to wait for their princess to make up her mind, ever increasing dragon attacks demand the assistance of the battlemages Esofi brings from Rhodion, so their safety in the balance if Adale won't marry then the well prepared royal cousins are ready to jump at the opportunity. There is a whole pantheon of gods not just in these kingdoms but Elven kingdoms have their own gods, Ieflaria is facing having a drought of magic thought it seems the gods are involved, and no one knows why the dragon attacks are increasing. Of course, Adale ends up showing Esofi around the city, eventually they start delving into the libraries to research dragons together.
I'm sure I first heard about this from Jean's Bookish Thoughts, happily it exceeded my expectations. The characters are all so empathetic (well, except the twins) and really have layers, we get both Esofi and Adale's perspectives, seeing their internal insecurities about the new situation they are in. It's interesting Esofi is a fish out of water in terms of appearance and style, alone in a new kingdom, yet she has all this power over the future of the kingdom, is thoroughly trained to rule and adept at magic, so I really enjoyed reading this extremely competent character who still has some vulnerability.
I think the only downside to this is really that I just wanted MORE everything. The romance was sweet (Note: no steam though, this goes no further than kissing) and the way they get to know each other felt like a realistic relationship, even while its built around magic and magical beasts, but there were some periods where the chemistry was paused for plot. Other times I wanted to go so much deeper into the worldbuilding, like we know how many god there are, but don't learn about all of them, or the history of magical beasts and dragon lore, even references to a third gender (or maybe genderless) identity in their culture. We do get a lot for as short as this book is, so I'm definitely looking forward to continuing on in the series hoping it expands those areas I was looking for more.
This book was a lot of fun. I picked up the Audio after someone recommended it to me when I was looking for LGBTQ+ reads, and it didn't disappoint, despite feeling quite light on complexity and development at first. I think the world and the plot developed a lot as it went, along with the characters who became more interesting, but it certainly feels like a fast-paced story of princesses and dragons, and just the start of what could come from this series.
Princess Esofi of Rhodia is our first main character and she's a magic-wielding princess determined to journey to Ieflaria where she's destined to become queen. However, her original betrothed dies before her arrival, leaving her unsure quite where she fits and also who she will marry.
Ieflaria is currently in the midst of a major dragon problem and Crown Princess Adale is irresponsible and lacking awareness of her duties. Having been second born all her lift she doesn't think she'd ever have to arrange a marriage, but when Esofi comes she's forced to re-evaluate her life, priorities and the best thing for her kingdom.
The magical creatures and general gods and moon magic of the world was fascinating, if only light touched on at points of the book. I'd certainly want to learn more about these elements in the laster books of the series and although I'm not 100% sure it's following the sake characters I'm interested to see where the world and plot develops and hopeful for crossovers. I'd definitely carry on as it's just a fun romance along with a pretty good adventure and world, and I assume that the books will get stronger as they go. 3.5*s for this one.
This was a fascinating premise! The prince and princess of two countries were pledged to each other as children but then he dies when she's already on her way to his country to marry him. And the next heir in line is his sister the princess!
I really liked how sexuality wasn't an issue at all. When Esofi learns Adale is the heir, she just rolls with it. The only question about two princesses marrying has to do with heirs but there is a process called the Change, which can allow one to become pregnant. This was never fully explained so perhaps it'll come up in a subsequent book.
The story had a lot of promise that ran into some issues. The beginning was a lot of info dumping and some of the information we get was never fully fleshed out so I'm not sure if it needed to be disclosed or if it'll matter more in the course of the series. The love story is very chaste and I wish it had been developed further. Esofi spends much of the story trying to decide whether she'll marry Adale, who is rather horrified initially at the prospect of being queen, or one of Adale's twin cousins, who are monsters. I could not understand how this stretched across the whole book or how Esofi couldn't see the twins's true colors. Then in the last chapter Esofi and Adale are all of a sudden planning their wedding with no real conversation about their relationship or what happened. It felt very rushed. But hopefully we'll see more of them.
My favorite part of the book was all the dragon research. This was fascinating! It also sets up some interesting prospects for the series and I'll certainly be reading on.
CW: grief, references to death of a loved one, battles, bullying
Read it in one day, truly a nice surprise! It has been in my tbr for a couple of years now but I'm really happy I've finally decided to pick it up. It's a nice queer fantasy book with dragons, gods, love and politics, with really fun and nice MCs. My main issue with it is its shortness, I think it could have been better with a hundred pages more, but the following books of the series appear to be longer, so I'm hopeful. It was a nice and quick read that truly seems to introduce the universe, and I think we follow these MCs again in the 3rd book, so I'm excited for the rest. I truly love when fantasy books create a universe where queerness is just part of everyone life, without question. I mean, if you're gonna create a new world, why not make it queer friendly! Here, everyone seems more or less pan and there's casual non binary rep. There are also dragon, which, not queer, but pretty awesome still.
The Queen of Ieflaria is a book that has excellent ideas, but suffers from very flawed and inconsistent execution. The idea of an F/F arranged-marriage fantasy romance with dragons sounds great—but in reality, Effie Calvin struggled a lot with pacing, structure, and follow-through. The end result is a book that’s over-informative on issues that are irrelevant to the resolution of the conflict, but underdeveloped respecting elements that should have been central. I think this book also suffers from the author’s messy attempts to create both a developed romantic arc and a larger-scale “traditional fantasy” plot with the dragons; in her attempts to juggle both, Calvin was successful at neither.
It is apparent that Calvin spent a great deal of time thinking through her fantasy universe. The world that The Queen of Ieflaria is set in apparently has well-developed geography, culture, mythology, and political context. However, it is equally apparent that the author couldn’t quite grasp how to let her readers know that she had invested so deeply in world-building, so her attempts at conveying the information are clumsy and inappropriately-timed. I understand this is probably the single-most difficult aspect of writing fantasy fiction, but whew. If your preferred vehicle for delivering information on the universe’s mythology/religion is to have a character lie back and catalogue each deity and its attributes by name for the reader’s benefit, then…well. That’s not how it should be done.
I also think that in general, Calvin’s excitement and enthusiasm for her fantasy universe overtook her ability to streamline a plot. For instance, several interesting or seemingly important story points were introduced, only the be summarily abandoned in favor of the “central” conflict. We find out that there’s an intriguing “science vs. religion” debate that might put the two protagonists in direct conflict with each other…but this is never mentioned, even though it appears to be Very Important when first brought up. Likewise, there’s a scene where it appears that one protagonist’s membership in an ultra-elite religious sect might cause a national crisis…but again, Calvin does nothing with it.
Great portions of the text read as if the author is stumbling her way, trying to find the crux of her story, but without any success. Eventually, we do land on the primary obstacle in play: dragons are pillaging the kingdom, coming closer and closer to the capital. Unfortunately, by this point, Calvin has already seeded her novel with so many other potential conflicts that it’s confusing. Not to mention that by the time it is made clear to the readers that the dragon plot is going to prove important to the book’s overall resolution, we’re about halfway through, and everything is rushed.
And then there’s the romantic arc, which is not rushed so much as tepid. Perhaps because of Calvin���s inability to pinpoint her conflict, the romance between protagonists Esofi and Adale was shunted to the side and not given much depth. At first, the reason they cannot be married is because Adale doesn’t want to become queen, and obviously, Esofi cannot marry a princess who abdicates. Then the conflict is that Adale wants to be queen and wants Esofi, but now Adale’s cousins are also competing for Esofi’s hand. Underneath all of this “will they, won’t they” is an unexplored current of internal tension. Calvin hints that both characters have deep feelings of insecurity and unworthiness, but amid all of the info-dumping (see above), there isn’t space to let those traumas breathe. There was a distinct lack of emotional intensity displayed both by Esofi and Adale as individuals and by their relationship as a couple. (Please note: I say “emotional intensity” not as a euphemism for “explicitly physical love scenes.”)
With characterization lacking depth and nuance and misapplied worldbuiling, I’m afraid that my final impression of The Queen of Ieflaria was unenthusiastic at best. A collection of great ideas does not a good novel make. I’m disappointed by this read, not least because I suspect that rigorous editing and restructuring of the plot could have resulted in a phenomenal book.
The Queen of Ieflaria has a lovely plot. Princess Esofi has been engaged to the Crown Prince of Ieflaria for years, but while she's travelling to their the wedding he dies. Ieflaria desperately needs Esofi's and her country's help in fighting the dragons that keep attacking, and generous and kind Esofi doesn't want the contract to fail either, so she agrees to marry the new heir - Crown Princess Adale. But Adale has never been trained to rule a kingdom and she has her doubts about how the arrangement could work - all while the dragon attacks keep getting worse.
The book is told from both Esofi and Adale's POVs and I enjoyed both greatly. Adale especially was very relateable. Her panic and anxiety about her becoming a ruler and wife to Esofi after bascially spending her life before her brother's death partying was very understandable, and especially her struggle to find the words to express her fears and worries was painfully real and went close to my heart. I also very much related to her stance towards religion. Esofi on the other hand is very competent, powerful and self-assured, at least when it comed to knowledge and ruling. She is kind and generous and she will be a wonderful queen. She still has her doubts - especially when it comes to her self-image. Esofi is fat, and had (and still has) to deal with the continued fatphobia, especially from her family.
The romance between the two was overall not my favourite part of the book, but I still enjoyed the single scenes with them on their own.
I also loved the world it was set it, but the world-building itself wasn't always handled smoothly. From time to time I was confused about country and continent names and their relation to one another. I also liked how in this world being pan in the norm, being transgender is a non-issue and there is a third gender called neutroi who use they/them pronouns. I wish the neutroi characters had played bigger roles - as it was, most were either unnamed or just said one sentence and then never appeared again. Additionally, I found the language used rather cis-normative, for example having a deep voice is equated with being male and using he/him more than once. There is also a vast mythology with a lot of different gods who are responsible for different things, and religion and the gods play an important role in the book - but not as big of a role as I was expecting. Esofi is very religious, whereas Adale is really not. A big discussion about religion vs science happens at some point, but it, as well as the mentioned corruption of the temples, remains unresolved.
Generally I felt like there was so much more to this world than was brought up in the book. There were so many different things that I wish had been explored in more detail, or things that I expected to become significant, just to be never mentioned again. I was curious about so many things and then was disappointed when there was no further elaboration. It's like this with the side characters too - there are a lot of them, but most are only there a few times and don't have much of a personality.
Overall a great book, but I really wish it had been longer and handled almost every aspect more in-depth! There will be (at least) one more book in this series, I'm looking forward to see the world more explored in those!
I was intrigued by the premises, and I enjoyed a lot of the elements and of the story line, unfortunately there was, for me, a real issue with the delivery. As it's the first novel of the author, I believe, it's still an impressive work and should not be scorn on that account. However, there were so many interesting elements introduced that weren't explored as the novel is only around a 150 pages. It could easily have been 300 pages with some more world building, and most of all some character development. For me both Esofi and Adale didn't feel like cohesive characters. Adale is famed for her hard drinking and party lifestyle, but we don't get to see it all, so that when she's supposed to be changing it's not really impactful, as we don't really know what she's leaving behind. Esofi is a more developed character, she's very intriguing, deeply religious, focused on her goals and can have some badass moments. But then she just goes on and cry for no reason and needs to be fanned by her ladies in waiting. Above all I didn't really feel any chemistry between the two, and I read historical romances so I'm willing to suspend my disbelief quite a bit on that account.
If you're looking for a fast-paced easy fantasy read this could satisfy you, and I still want to read the other instalments in the series because they also sound quite intriguing.
The Queen of Ieflaria is so beautiful and I enjoyed it so much. Everyone is pan EVERYONE and queer couples are so normalized *sobs of happiness*
I'm a sucker for fantasy book with big dresses and magic. I seriously giggled with happiness every chapter because I was so delighted and I couldn't believe it: I found the book that I always wanted to read as a teen.
I was in love with the characters. Esofi is fat, wears the prettiest dresses and is a part-time diplomat part-time dragon fighter. Adele is a fighter, too, so loyal and such big softie. Both of them grow through the story, as their relationship does. They struggle with each other, with their future marriage. As they get to know their interests, beauties, and flaws their relationship grows.
Anyway, I really adored this story with all my heart. Sure, maybe the world-building was lacking, but it is a short book and we spent more time with the characters. And I seriously loved them, so not complaining about that.
I had some smalls concerns that hopefully will be resolved in the next book.
Pretty please, give me the next one.
A copy was received through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.