So I’m trying to get all my reviews squared away before we head off for the Thanksgiving holiday, because I know I’ll finish at least 3 books while I’m away. My aunt has no cell service and no wifi where she lives so aside from watching television, which I hardly do when I’m at home anyway, my main entertainment is reading. I know I’ll come back from Thanksgiving with at least 3 reviews to write, so I better leave with all of my reviews caught up. I’ve been killing this reading thing lately, so you guys have definitely seen a lot more of me.
This book has popped in and out of my suggested reads from Amazon for months now. I would always see the cover, read the synopsis, kind of shrug it off and move on. I wasn’t super in to the premise of the book but the cover always drew me in. Finally I saw it on Kindle Unlimited and thought I would borrow it and end up returning it without reading it, which is what happens with most of my Kindle Unlimited books. But I was trying to give myself something to listen to at work and decided to listen, rather than read this one and ended up finishing it in just 4 days, which is unheard of for me when it comes to audio books.
The Hundredth Queen tells the story of Kalinda, a sickly orphan ward of The Sisterhood in Samiya. The Sisterhood apparently takes in orphans and trains them in the ways of the Sisterhood. A little gross fact, is that the Rajah and other benefactors of The Sisterhood can go around to all of the different locations of the Sisterhood and claim the girls to be their wives, their servants, and in the Rajah’s case, a courtesan too. Kind of sick, right? Kalinda is one of the weaker novices of The Sisterhood and is constantly plagued by fevers. When a benefactor appears at their temple and demands a skills trial between the girls, she doesn’t think she has a chance of winning. Kalinda, and her good friend Jaya, plan to lose their skill trial bouts so that they can remain at the Temple together and take vows. But all does not go according to plan. After Kalinda shuts down Netesa for a cruel attack on her friend Jaya, the benefactor decides to select two girls to claim. And we learn that this benefactor is none other than Rajah Tarek himself. Rajah Tarek decides to claim Kalinda as his 100th Rani (or queen) and Netesa as a courtesan. Both girls are shocked by his decision. With the claiming of his 100th Rani, Rajah Tarek sets off the last and final rank tournament within his harem. There’s a lot of information that you learn throughout the book, but essentially his wives are ranked in order of their skill and any lower wife can challenge a higher ranked wife for her position. The highest ranked wife is known as his Kindred. Courtesans can only challenge the lowest ranked rani, and if they win, they assume her place as wife. But essentially Kalinda has to defend her title as Rajah Tarek’s 100th Rani – something that she didn’t even want in the first place.
“I do not understand why the gods have made it so that every woman’s lot in life is to owe her security to a man. Maybe if it were otherwise, we would not put up with them.”
While my overall feeling is kind of muddled (as you can tell from my rating), I did still have a few clear issues with it. The idea behind the Sisterhood is that the girls raised within remain chaste. So we learn in the beginning of the book, Kalinda, Jaya and the other girls at the Temple have never seen a man before. They don’t know what men look like. Kalinda and Jaya have a plan to pledge themselves to the Temple so that they can remain together forever. So in a world where these girls don’t know men, their story (Kalinda and Jaya’s) came off, at least to me, as a love story. And it would in fact make sense that they were in love with each other because they had no concept of heterosexual love. But then, when Rajah Tarek comes to claim Kalinda and Netesa, and they’re escorted back to the palace by Deven, one of Rajah Tarek’s guards, Kalinda falls in to an insta-love with him. Now, she doesn’t go so far as to forget Jaya, but she waxes on and on and on and on about how Deven makes her feel. I guess it makes sense that never seeing a man she would fall in love with the first one that she ever meets?
I guess the love that Kalinda feels for Deven throughout the book just feels superficial to me because she knew him for all of 3 seconds and he touched her (chastely, I’ll add) like 3 times before she becomes quasi-obsessed with him. Kalinda’s love for Jaya made much more sense to me than her love for Deven. And there were so many descriptions about Deven’s lips, and his eyes, and the way he moved, that I was coming very close to hating him just because Kalinda thought about him so. freaking. much. To be fair to the story line though, I can see how Kalinda would have to obsess over something to avoid the disgusting-ness that is the Rajah and his harem. The whole concept of the harem thing and how it works was totally cringe-worthy. But I definitely like the idea of Kalinda opening up a can of whoop-ass on everybody, thought that was another struggle I faced: although Kalinda is supposed to be the heroine of this book, she kind of comes across as a love-sick teenager whose sole focus is trying to be with Deven and she just ends up trying to save the empire in the process. I would even go so far as to say that the story would have been stronger without the love story between Kalinda and Deven in it. But that’s just my personal opinion.
As far as the world-building goes though, it was fantastic. I hated the world, but loved the world-building, if that makes any sense. I felt completely immersed in the Tarachand empire that King created. And while my struggles with this book have been noted, this book was more than okay, but I’m not quite comfortable enough to say that I liked it. I feel like a lot of my overall feelings of discontent stem from how much I hated the character of Rajah Tarek, which means that King was successful in constructing his character. So for this one, I give…
I don’t know that I’ll rush out and grab the sequel. I did note on Goodreads that this book has an average rating of around 3.83 stars, where books 2, 3, and 4 are each rated higher than the last (4.03, 4.10, and 4.21, respectively). There was definitely a big jump in the ratings between Book 1 and 2. It seems like this is a case of the series getting better as it goes on. So I may pick The Fire Queen up in the future if I find myself looking for something to fill the time.
How about you, have you read this book yet? Do you normally enjoy or despise insta-love in books? Do you think the book would have been better with Jaya as the love-interest for Kalinda? Do you continue with a series even when the first book is less than stellar?