‘In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.
But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world-and her heart-upside down. Her future is now behind two doors-only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.’
Tiger Queen is quite a light read despite some of its subject matter, and one that I read cover to cover in one sitting. It’s an enjoyable read, though one I wish had a good more depth to it, as it felt a little as if only the surface of the key characters is explored with everything quite plain to see. The plot itself is reasonable predictable, which has less to do with the actual story and more to do with the dialogue and interactions between characters that flag up the direction of the tale quite early on.
I don’t believe that a reader needs to like a character to engage with them or for them to be good, strong, viable characters, but I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Kateri and I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not. She has many qualities that set her up to be the hero of the story, though the focus lingers on her physical strength and ability as well as her strength of will. It’s her strong will contrasted with her naivity (she often believes anything and everything she is told – by many characters over the course of the story) that unsettled me the most, as it isn’t a case of her just being stubborn and choosing her own way, but that she accepts most of what she’s told without question. For me, she shines most in her interactions with the younger of the Desert Boys and it’s this I wish we had seen more of, as it’s in these moments that we seem to have the most character development from her and she appears most human.
The main issue I found I had with the novel is that there is a lot of telling and not a good deal of showing. Characters often simply tell other their feelings, pieces from their past, or even their evil plans with little to no prompting or invitation, and while it doesn’t seem so out of place with certain character interactions, I found it quite jarring for the villains of the piece to reveal their plans and intentions to their enemies when they had no clear victory in sight. What Rodric intends for Kateri is laid out in detail before her as if she will never find any way of circumventing it, but also in such a manner that it seems to eliminate him as a threat.
This said, as mentioned before, Tiger Queen is an enjoyable read and I wouldn’t have read it so swiftly if it weren’t! I loved the interactions between the Desert Boys and how Kateri becomes one of them, as well as what the reader sees of life beyond the city and what is being done to subvert the rule of her father. I feel as if there’s a whole world that we only got a glimpse into and I would very happily read more about it, were it not to be a stand-alone novel.
Tiger Queen is out on September 10th! Thank you, Harper 360 YA, for sending me a copy for review!