We have at last come to the end of Sarah Kozloff’s new fantasy series, The Nine Realms. In the past few weeks we have reviewed the other three entries, A Queen in Hiding, The Queen of Raiders, and A Broken Queen, all leading up to the climactic finish in this volume. We have watched Cerulia go into hiding, biding her time as a tomboyish Wren in the countryside, adventurer Skylark, and, after Skylark burned down the capital of Oromondo, the convalescent Phenix. Now, Cerulia has returned to her homeland of Weirandale where she enacts her triumphant return to the throne, finds her true love, and a way to restore peace to the realms.
I’m not sure it’s much of a spoiler to reveal that Cerulia gets the throne back. Within the first few chapters, she’s thrown a not completely bloodless coup, but still full of swashbuckling and adventure and this series’s trademark abundance of dogs. If there’s one aspect of this series I haven’t covered enough, it’s that these are books for animal lovers. Cerulia has a Talent that allows her to communicate telepathically with animals, and her favorite animals are dogs and horses. Dogs in all their personalities get second billing in this series as loyal companions for Cerulia the world over.
Compared to the relentless battles of the last few books, Cerulia focuses most of her first weeks in office patching up relationships at home. Reunions with and revelations to long lost family like Stahlia, Lemle, and Percia occur amid administrative weeding to get Matwyck’s corrupted officials out of central bureaucracy. However, the main conflict becomes whom will Cerulia marry as she tries to decide between Thalen, Ciello, and Filio, a newcomer prince from a nearby kingdom. (Good luck, noob.) The romance proves to be the final step in securing Cerulia’s throne, as with true love on her side, she defeats an Oromondo invasion of Weirandale, led by tortured Sumroth, who has become completely evil.
The front cover teases with the tagline, “The return of the Queen,” in an obvious nod to a much more famous fantasy series, but the romantic plotlines actually kept The Cerulean Queen from also being one long string of concluding episodes. And sure, the romance might have an obvious outcome but romance fiction is more about the build and the climax than plot twists. The whole series provides plenty of romance as well as the adventure that has been central to these books since the beginning. The Cerulean Queen does resolve all cliffhangers, though, providing a cap to a series that has always been showing readers an escape to a different, more magical world.
Three out of five stars
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