Somehow between 2017 and 2018 I forgot I was waiting for the next book in the “Queens of Renthia” series. It was learning about a new book set in the Renthia world that reminded me I hadn’t finished the original trilogy, and it was added to my next book order. In happy coincidence half the cover is purple so it qualifies for the purple bingo square!
Sarah Beth Durst created a world where humanity is in constant, deadly struggle with the natural elemental spirits of the land. The spirits have an incredible ability to create but also a strong desire to demolish said creations. When channeled properly they can create buildings, fly one through the air, have a fire without needing to burn fuel, and bring water from deep underground. However, the spirits have a natural hatred of humans and will use their powers to destroy and even kill when possible.
Humanity is only able to coexist with the spirits due to the power of a queen. Each country in Renthia has a queen that is tied to all the spirits of that land, and as such has the ability to manipulate each one individually as needed. A queen holds the spirits in check and uses them to build up and make their land flourish. This dominance causes the spirits to hate the queens beyond any other human.
In the past two books, the Queendom of Aratay has been pummeled with disasters and invasions and now we find out the deeper reasons for the actions taken against Aratay. All has not been well in the Queendom of Semo. Despite having an abundance of power Queen Merecot is struggling to keep her people safe due to Semo having an excess of spirits wanting to rip the land apart. Merecot also suffers from delusions of power, that she is the only one strong enough to change the way humans and spirits interact. This has caused her to perform rash actions in the past and now she attempts a new gambit.
In The Queen of Sorrow we finally get a better glimpse at the Queens of Chell and Belene and this is where Durst leaves tantalizing loose threads regarding future stories that can be told in Renthia. Since I am behind in the Renthia world, a standalone novel set in Belene has already been published, The Deepest Blue, and will be added to my holiday wish list.
Things I really enjoyed about this series. I love Durst’s world building, it contains many of the effects of magic but it is all produced through elemental spirit manipulation. The trilogy primarily focuses on the Queendom of Aratay, a gigantic old growth forest where villages are up in the trees and the forest floor is a dangerous place. For faster travel, there is a network of zipline wires through the forest connecting villages. It’s a really cool setting! The women are the carriers of the story, with men in supporting roles. While the queens’ actions can at times feel bewildering, they are all grounded in the women’s motivations and ambitions.
I highly recommend “The Queens of Renthia” trilogy, especially if you are looking for female led fantasy.