The Winter Queen, by Devin Cary

the-winter-queen-by-devin-caryGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Berkley
Published: 1999
Reviewer Rating: twostars
Book Review by Aaron M. Renn

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On his deathbed, Elissa’s young husband names her as regent, the one to protect the kingdom of Albor until their five year-old son comes of age. The dying king might truly have wanted Elissa to act as regent, or he might have named her only to unite the Privy Council in support of the more likely candidate for the position, the marshal Geoffrey. Because women in Albor normally have no power, Elissa must prove herself constantly to protect her son and daughter.

With the help of Geoffrey, her only ally in the court, and her uncle, who is her advisor in the realm of sorcery that she must learn secretly, Elissa attempts to rule the kingdom. Using both her sword fighting skills and her magical powers, she must overcome different plots and conspiracies from inside and outside Albor, as well as her own inexperience, as she puts aside the feelings she has for the married Geoffrey and seeks to prove herself worthy to be regent.

I believe this is the first book by Cary, and unfortunately it’s not a particularly strong effort. It’s got all the cliched elements I don’t like in fantasy novels: the depressing, pseudo-medieval setting; the strong female character struggling to find her place in a male dominated world; the courtiers more interested in their own power than the well-being of the kingdom; and so on. On the other hand, the book is very short, and could possible be valuable as light entertainment filler.

Various unresolved loose ends and a rather abrupt ending suggest that there will be a sequel to this book, which would have benefited from better editing. Names of some secondary characters change once, even on the same page, and sweeping generalizations, such as “women cry when they are hurting or upset or lonely” appear throughout the story. The action surrounding the conspiracies is fast paced, but it takes a while to get started.

An adequate addition to a fantasy collection, but not a necessary purchase.

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