Emily R. King’s The Warrior Queen, the fourth and final novel in her Hundredth Queen series, is an unexpected but fitting end to a magical story.
The Warrior Queen opens almost right where The Rogue Queen left off. The last time we saw our heroes, they survived (and won) a pretty epic battle. The demon that Prince Ashwin accidentally raised from the Void was defeated and sent back to its shadowy domain… But not without a pretty significant (and attractive) casualty.
But I’ll get to that in a second.
First off, I want to say that I really thought that The Rogue Queen was the end of this series while I was reading it. So, imagine my surprise when I was expecting a Happily Ever After but didn’t end up getting one at that point.
Sure, most of the main Happily Ever After details were there: The big bad had been conquered once and for all. The kingdom was saved from destruction (and the citizens who had a hand in it). Our heroine was not only safe, but also more powerful than ever before.
But the ending was missing two crucial pieces: All of our heroes’ safety and a Happily Ever After for the main couple.
While I think that, without that last element, The Rogue Queen could’ve been a fitting end to the Hundredth Queen series, The Warrior Queen adds a few interesting dimensions to the story.
First and foremost, this final installment does something that few final books in similar series do: It tells the story of what happens after the Big Bad has been vanquished and the city is safe from supernatural forces. Though we didn’t get a full Happily Ever After at the end of the third novel, we get enough to then have The Warrior Queen turn it on its head.
Happily Ever Afters lure people into a false sense of contentment and completion. However, the social issues and people in these kinds of novels don’t just stagnate at the end of a story. They presumably live on beyond the huge dangerous event and face other challenges.
Things can’t always be sunshine and rainbows after the end of an ordeal like the one in The Rogue Queen. I really appreciated that this novel not only acknowledged that, but dug deep into it. As Tony Stark says in Iron Man 3, “We create our own demons.”
So, I guess, to keep that comparison going, Ashwin is the Tony Stark of this novel. (Stay with me here.) In raising a dangerous (supernatural) demon and ruling the Tarachand Empire in the manner that he has decided, he has created his fair share of (figurative) demons. Flying in the face of tradition and choosing unconventional allies has left him at odds with quite a few people to the point of radicalizing them. This novel explores how he navigates the fallout from that and, while his storyline may feel slow at times, it’s really interesting to see a story tackle the aftereffects of major ordeals.
And while all of that is going on with Ashwin, Kalinda is dealing with her own sorts of demons. With Deven trapped in the Void, the dark underworld of demons, Kalinda has to race against time to save him as well as their future together. But because there’s very little known about the Void, she has more questions than answers about how to do so which leaves us, the audience, just as unsure as Kalinda about how everything is going to turn out.
I enjoyed seeing Kalinda on her own again, interacting with new people and facing different obstacles. Isolating Kalinda once more allows the reader to remember who she is at her core and how she reacts to situations without the influence of her friends and loved ones. I just wish that, on her quest, she and Deven would’ve had more time together. I’ve been really missing their interactions since the second book (which was when they first started drifting apart) and am sad to report that there aren’t many in this final installment.
The drama that always happens to follow them and their relationship is definitely here, however. In trying to save his life and bring him back into the natural world, Kalinda goes on an Odyssey-like quest complete with different challenges and mythical elements thrown in. This aspect of the novel is *super* interesting in that it kicks up the series’ mythology to an 11.
I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t say too much about this, but there’s an unexpected character added to the mix about halfway through the novel and, with them, comes a surprising but fascinating turn of events that I couldn’t wait to learn more about. Though the twist seems to come out of nowhere, it makes sense in context and it’s something I will be looking for hints of when I re-read this series down the line.
Honestly, with both Ashwin and Kalinda’s storylines, The Warrior Queen feels very much like its own thing. It actually almost feels like the first book in an offshoot series rather than the conclusion to the series we’ve all been so invested in. This novel incorporates so many new and different story elements and focuses on different aspects of the world that was created for this series that we’d never really come across before.
Yes, feelings of political unrest and talk of the gods’ roles in ordinary peoples’ lives happened throughout the first three novels, but these things were always relegated to the background. They didn’t even register much as side plots before now. Though these new plots made for an enjoyable read, I wish we would’ve gotten more of a taste of them earlier so as to give them more room to breathe.
Although The Rogue Queen could very well have served as the end of the Hundredth Queen series, The Warrior Queen adds new facets and expands on interesting elements that the previous three novels just didn’t have time for. I, for one, loved getting more time with all of the characters we all came to know and love over the course of the series, even if their appearance in this final installment was all too brief.
The Warrior Queen is a well-earned victory lap for an imaginative and captivating series. While I’m sad it has finally come to a close, I’m satisfied with how it ended.