Queer Rep: Pansexual, Non-Binary side characters
Warnings: Minor fatphobia against an MC who absolutely does not give a shit what you think.
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.
“The Queen of Ieflaria” is a book that perfectly scratches a very particular itch. Do you want to get lost in a lovingly constructed and well-detailed fantasy world? Do you want non-binary and queer characters absolutely everywhere because it’s the norm? Do you want two princesses of opposing morals and ideals to kiss?
THEN STRAP IN KIDS, BECAUSE YOU’VE FOUND YOUR BOOK.
I was instantly engaged with the plot and the plight of Princess Esofi. The prose in this one is beautiful, fitting the frills and grandeur of the setting perfectly.
Esofi has it rough, not that she’ll complain out loud about it. Her retinue might, as they range from a starry eyed helper to a woman a little too eager to assassinate the nearest threat (she’s my favorite). We learn a lot about the world and the gods this civilization holds dear as Esofi gets settled in her new home. Sometimes it was a lot, but I trusted Calvin to remind me of their names and importance when it was of import, and she did exactly that. I never had to desperately flip through the pages to relocate a piece of information, nor did I feel I was being pelted with the same information over and over again. Calvin had great pacing for this sort of thing, and I am thankful. Reading shouldn’t be a chore.
At first I thought the plot was going to be very standard—which was fine, because I wanted to see princesses kiss—but I found myself repeatedly surprised by the book. Some things were very traditional fantasy, no complaints, and others would set you up for a moment of “well I know how this will go” only to laugh in your face a few sentences or chapters later. It was refreshing! Nothing was ever done just for the sake of drama; every moment held importance for the world or the characters. It was never overwrought, which romance can so often be.
My only complaint for the book was I wanted a little more tension. Esofi and Adale overcome their problems and differences almost too easily—they do their due diligence in forging an understanding, don’t get me wrong, I just wanted to see more clashing of their contrasting personalities. When I first heard Adale’s character description I thought “Oh man, this is the kind of piece of shit character I love”, but she was… honestly super sweet. This is ENTIRELY a taste thing, but I think if Adale would have been more of a jackass and a little harder to get along with, this book could have reached my personal perfection.
It was obvious Calvin cared about this world and its inhabitants. There are layers upon layers of lore with a cemented background of past political turmoil, current allegiances and factions, the repercussions visible in the world. It doesn’t feel too heavy, it just shows the reader that there’s so much beyond what they currently see. It makes the world feel whole and moveable, like there’s always something else brewing. The same can be said about religion, although it plays a much more direct part in our story. I loved seeing how the different societies viewed the different gods, and how each puzzled together to form a unique sliver of inhabitants.
Esofi was great, and somehow very relatable despite being a princess. I liked Adale—liked her so much I thought she was too likable, if you remember—and found her predicament very unfortunate. Both characters filled me with empathy, and I longed to pat their pretty heads (and then push them together).
Overall, “The Queen of Ieflaria” was a sugary fantasy novel that I read while in need of a sugary fantasy novel. It was sweet and queer and so much what I needed. If you find yourself craving the same thing, then I implore you to give this one a try.
I also bought the sequel and am thrilled to dive in, so expect that review in the future.
Note: I am an Amazon Associate and I am using affiliate links. These do not affect you or my reviews.
From Ninestar Press:
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