I’ve never read any books by Sarah Fine, though I’m intrigued by the premise of The Impostor Queen to give it a try (adventurous me). While it’s a decent enough YA fantasy read, I feel like it’s just that: decent. Not extraordinary but also not cringe-worthily bad. It has all the right elements but just wasn’t enough to blow my mind.
Elli is the Saadella of Kupari, next in line to the Valtia, the Kupari’s queen who’s also the conduit of immense magic. (This got me all excited! Powerful queens who don’t even need armies!) When the ruling Valtia dies, Elli would come into power and receive the full measure of magic. Except, she didn’t. She’s a dud. She’s a Squib. No matter how she tries to coax the magic out of her, nothing works because she’s empty inside. After overhearing a ploy to slit her throat, Elli escaped from the Temple and ended up among criminals in the outlands, where she discovers more to herself and the entire kingdom. Elli, like the book, is an okay character. She’s determined, resilient, and tenderhearted. She grew up in the Temple as a sheltered, pampered princess, but she’s also willing to earn her keep among the outlaws. There’s also a twist to the Special Snowflake trope, like Elli was the Chosen One her whole life, and she turns into a desperate, confused disappointment, THEN she discovers she’s still the Chosen One, just in a different way. I’m tired of seeing the Special Snowflake, but it’s interesting how Sarah Fine uses this trope and put Elli through so much turmoil and anguish. I was surprised when Elli lost two fingers in a bear trap early into the book, because that’s not normal procedure but I also like the twist (yeah because protagonists never get hurt). In all, I didn’t hate Elli, but I also didn’t love her.
Oskar is my favorite character! He is a magic wielder and can manipulate ice. Except he hates his ability because of a tragic accident when he was young. Such misery and self-loathing. This Good Samaritan saved Elli in the woods and took her into his house when she has nowhere to go (OOOooo I’m prepared to ship!). He’s usually gruff and cross like a bear deprived of hibernation, but he’s also incredibly sweet. He takes good care of his mother and little sister, and he compliments Elli whenever she accomplishes some meager task, like patching up his coat or grinding corn, like, You grind corn very well, Elli, thank you. Such a sweet, protective guy. He and Elli’s romance didn’t appear out of nowhere, so that’s something I liked. Objectively I felt like the romance was clogging up the plot a little, but I was so busy mildly shipping Oskar and Elli I didn’t care so much.
I liked the supporting characters too! #List time
- Oskar’s younger sister Freya is such a fierce, wise little girl. She knows an awful lot for a kid who’s ten years old. How adorable.
- Sig, the fanatic rebel leader of magic wielder, is also a quite complex character. He and Oskar have much in common: they both have too much of one element and not enough of the other (fire for Sig and ice for Oskar). Sig is a gifted fire wielder who has had enough of the oppression and hypocrisy of the temple priests. He has a tragic backstory, but he’s also too unhinged and violent for my taste.
- The villains, I won’t say whom, are too bland and pure-evil. 1-D.
I enjoyed the worldbuilding. The Kupari world is believable but not too complex as to confuse the readers. The city is a protected by the Valtia’s magic, and the outlands are cold, harsh woods and caverns where the banished and outlaws live. The atmosphere is wintry and gritty. The magic system is also clean-cut: there are two elements, ice and fire, and many people can have a little of both. Only the Valtia has the full extent of both elements. I didn’t like how religious people are treated in the book, though. Why must all temple priests be sketchy and evil? I knew immediately those priests are up to no good, but why??? Why can’t religious people be good for once?
Plot & Pacing
The plot and pacing are adequate. The story kept going steadily, and the twists and reveals are all in the right place. But, somehow the plot was too easy and not convoluted enough. I saw everything coming, which was mildly frustrating.
I liked Sarah Fine’s writing, though. It’s easy, flowing, and hardly noticeable, which is awesome. I didn’t like how she makes Elli’s cheeks burn or redden every single chapter. It got a little old, and every time I see “cheeks” I just think “yep, there she goes again. What a blushy baby.”
All in All, Some Final Thoughts
The Impostor Queen is a quick, entertaining experience. I was prepared for greatness and intricate court intrigues (what I envision when I hear “queen”), but I was pleasantly surprised by the YA magic fantasy. Even though it didn’t knock my socks off, I liked the book enough to recommend it to those who is into queens and who wants to try a YA fantasy.
Have you read any other Sarah Fine books? Which one would you recommend them to me?
The Impostor Queen
By Sarah Fine
Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.
But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.
Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.