Christian Library Journal – July/August/September 2017
The Queen of Blood / by Sarah Beth Durst
Harper Voyager ISBN 9780062413345
YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 5
Spirits have two desires: to build and to destroy. In a land where these elemental spirits hold the world in balance, the queen is the only human able to completely control their desires and bloodlust. She can’t show any weakness—especially if an ancient spirit seeks to exploit her—but even a strong queen has her limits.
Only one house stands after a village massacre. A girl with an affinity for spirits protects her family long enough for Champion Ven to arrive. Ven tells Daleina that if her affinity for the spirits had been stronger, she could have saved her whole village. As a former bodyguard, he knows the queen wouldn’t let a forest village be destroyed were it within her power to prevent the loss. If she’s losing power, he must send as many affinity-prone girls to the Academy as he can.
Years pass and Daleina is still guilt-ridden over the deaths of the villagers. Hoping to protect other villages like hers, she enters the Academy, a training school for girls with the potential to control spirits. Her classmates surpass her in every physical challenge, but no one else has seen the horrors the spirits can cause. If she can’t stop a spirit, could there be another way to control them?
Daleina’s character may at first seem like another traumatized YA protagonist, but readers attach to her when they see her path to saving others develop into a fight for survival. Her character changes drastically as the story unfolds. Readers will feel Daleina’s hope and heartache as she embraces her childhood dream and her adult nightmare: becoming queen.
It is no surprise that this novel won an Alex Award in ALA 2017. Sarah Beth Durst’s beautiful, poetic narration slows down the pace of the novel but leaves readers in awe and clinging to every detail. While there are some uses of profane language, extramarital sex (not described in detail), and moderately violent scenes (dismembered bodies, blood, violent fights leading to death, etc.), The Queen of Blood features one of the most intricately woven fantasy plots. Every element of this story fits perfectly into this epic, giving no unnecessary rabbit trails or backstory.