The Girl King

496p. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781681198897. POP
RedReviewStarGr 9 Up–This series opener is told in alternating points of view—Princess Lu, called the Girl King, her overlooked younger sister Min, and Lu's childhood friend, Nok, now an apothecary's apprentice. Events from years earlier weigh heavily on the characters, including the disappearance of the Yunians, godlike beings, and the near extermination of Nok's brethren, nicknamed slipskins for their ability to transform into animals. Headstrong Lu knows she is destined to be the first Empress of the somewhat-new Hu dynasty and looks forward to her father naming her as his successor. Instead, he announces her rival cousin Set will become Emperor and she will be his wife. Min begins to struggle with her feelings as she is ignored by her father, and praised by her mother. She fluctuates between wanting to be unnoticed and to be as strong a presence as Lu. This is a masterful blend of Asian history with a touch of fantasy. The characters are compelled to confront how they think of themselves with how they actually are, and must make decisions that could affect the fate of their country. Yu crafts a rich tale filled with detailed world-building that draws readers in. This mainly female-led ambitious adventure will appeal to fans of Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.
VERDICT An epic tale of fate, desire, family and love, highly recommended for purchase.

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