I thought that writing this book review would be easy when I purchased Talia by Christy King. While the book blurb does tease that Talia lives in a dark and dangerous world and that she is self-destructive, I had different expectations coming into this book.
See, I’ve been reading books from the YA science fiction and fantasy genres recently. I expected the heroine to be tough and scrappy; after she overcame a few false starts, she would jump into her high adventure. Good would vanquish evil. She would learn a lesson about herself, evolve from there, and take on stronger evils as the story progressed.
What I found was a dark and grim world–one where nightmare creatures fit in far better than the humans they predate on. And I think it works.
In a land besieged by vampires and werewolves, a young princess (who starts as a bright and clever adventurer) endures loss after loss until she submits to her station in life. Even after the few joys of her youth are a distant memory, Talia is determined to protect her subjects–who rely on her to protect them. Made queen just as she turns eighteen, her burdens are weighty; her inexperience with life outside her castle’s walls has made her a pawn on the real power-players’ game board. Unprepared, she enters a world far more dangerous for her than for the average commoners she longs to protect.
Bordering on (and often entering deep into) horror fantasy, Talia is filled with intrigue and conflict: Tensions between nations and tensions between individuals roil in a gathering storm. Power-hungry villains and deeply-flawed heroes collide, and it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top in any given skirmish. This is a world of blood and passion, with only brief respites from the onslaught. Emotions run high; betrayals and reversals of fortune are constant. Christy King’s world is neither a tidy nor a bright-future fantasy world. I consider it a perfect setting for Talia‘s scheming power-brokers and nightmare predators.
As a protagonist, Talia is not a strong woman. It’s understandable; the world is overwhelming and she has no mentors to guide her. When she asserts her power as queen, some block her even as others support her. She has loyalty which I did not entirely understand, since she comes across as deeply distressed or depressed most of the time. The loyalty does make sense in time; Talia is the most benevolent regent in a region where avarice and violence are the status quo. Talia’s evolution starts in Talia: Her adventurous spirit and true confidence is thwarted then subdued. She has before her a long inner journey to reclaim it. Despite her desire to escape her powerlessness in this nightmarish world, she consistently fights to live when her death is imminent. At her core, Talia possesses the sprouting seeds of inner strength which create powerful female protagonists. I expect she’ll become a stronger female protagonist in the just-released (22 March 2015) second book of the Talia series: Ancestral Blood.
A young-adult novel teetering at the top-most edge of the YA age range, Talia fits comfortably into the new-adult novel category. Talia is a grim and gritty horror fantasy fiction novel thick with intrigue, sensuality, and emotional intensity. Though I admit I was personally frustrated today with the unrelenting relationship intrigue throughout Talia, this is a novel I wanted to read at eighteen years old; this is a novel I know my son’s fiancée would absolutely love, and I will be recommending it to her as a must-read.
Ebook: Amazon (Kindle)