I do want to emphasize that I am delighted that I received an ARC and was truly entertained and moved by the the story. I want you to keep in mind that I approached this read as a writer assessing story progression, character development, setting, showing vs. telling, so my view is critical in those regards. I also assessed this as a fantasy book with science at its core, two things I hold near and dear, so I was comparing it to what is traditional to fantasy novels/series. I am happy that I have read Long May She Reign and look forward to discussion with others who read it.
*I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway I won.*
3.5/5 stars, rounded up because I enjoyed reading it so much.
I enjoyed this book immensely. Admittedly, I was highly critical of it as I read. (You can review my comments throughout my updates of this book. They are rather sassy.)
For the majority of the book, there was a limited place of setting that left me wanting more--but considering the circumstances within the story, it is understandable that they were confined to the Fort and there is only so many places within an enclosed space. Once the setting expanded beyond the Fort, the story felt like it was actually happening and the dangers felt more real. While everything was happening in the Fort, I felt like the story was being told not shown--Rule #1 for writers.
The characters themselves proved to be more dynamic than I thought the author could achieve in a little over 400 pages of a standalone novel, and that is rather impressive. My only complaint is that the best friend and father were not more developed and left rather static--the best friend (emphasis on *best*) was left rather vague in her personality and history, and turned into this sidekick; the father's loyalty was greatly in question before he was taken as Sten's prisoner, and he showed no progression beyond his pride of his now-Queen daughter's success against Sten, and his history is also vague. I see progression in all characters, even Madeleine, the dead king, Fitzroy, Sten, Holt...but not of those who were closest to Freya before she became Queen. I guess it is best for me to say I was disappointed in their development, but I can attribute their lack of development to their stories not being important to the overall story in hand. It is best for full character development across the board, especially in a fantasy, and especially with characters who have been close to the protagonist all along. I think Thomas should have considered making this a series, because more page space would have allowed her to fully flesh out this story.
Now with Freya--she was an underdog who found her stride as Queen. Along the way she frustrated me, because she was someone who agreed that there was a regal behavior that she had to adopt with her new position in the kingdom, but then she would turn around and let others walk over her. There was a gradual transition from her old self-conscious and uncertain self to her new more confident and sure self, and I am thankful for that realistic progression...But I was left wanting more in terms of showing her finding her stride. Thomas relied heavily on Freya's internal reflection and the words she exchanged in conversation--i.e. telling the story--than showing.
That brings me to my next point, and something that troubles me greatly with the YA fantasy I have been reading as of late. This story should have been multiple books, easily three, of substantial length. It is impressive that Thomas was able to complete this story in 400 pages, but she did it by telling and not showing. Maybe I am more critical of this issue because I have a BA in Creative Writing and spent thousands of hours honing the ability to show not tell, recognizing it in other work, and know the importance of showing over telling, but at the same time I recognize that easily 10-20 percent of this book is being stuck inside Freya's head and listening to her thoughts--one of the biggest no-no's ever. I am not saying the telling makes this a bad novel--which it isn't a bad novel; it is fantastic in the story and its characters; I daresay I even love most of it--however, by mostly telling the story we the Readers have been gypped in seeing the whole story. *This is a significant cause of why I had issue with the limited setting. We could have been swept away into distant memories of different characters to help broaden their development, but instead we were stuck in Freya's concerned thoughts inside a dreary and in disrepair Fort. Do you see how potentially frustrating and boring that could be?*
My next issue is that of the love interest being introduced about 80 pages from the end--another reason this should not have been a standalone. Thomas introduced and wrapped up the love interest in an okay fashion, I can more than accept it...But the whole thing felt rushed. It was introduced, Freya was elated, came crashing down, then resolved somewhat in the matter of...maybe 40 pages? And why was this so rushed, happening so quickly? Because the story was told and not shown.
If I continue on with my review you will get the wrong impression of my criticism, thinking I hate it. I don't hate Long May She Reign, I don't dislike it--what I have problem with is the potential it had to be a great series, what we lost out on because of the writer telling the story versus showing it. The plot is great, the characters are great, THE IDEA IS GREAT. The execution of it all was lacking... And that is what has saddened me--the lost potential of this story in its full length glory.
But please do read this. A scientist young lady who finds herself Queen after a tragic poisoning of the court? Guys, the melding of the fantasy and scifi was great and really worked for me. It was one of my biggest concerns when I started reading, wondering how the two would work together. 5/5 for Thomas in this regard.