Title: Tiger Queen
Author: Annie Sullivan
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
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ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
A fierce young desert princess must win her way to the crown to save her people from the drought in this YA fantasy inspired by Frank Stockton’s 1882 short story The Lady, or the Tiger?
In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.
But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world – and her heart – upside down. Her future is now behind two doors – only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.
Last year, I had the lucky opportunity to read and review Annie Sullivan’s debut A Touch of Gold. I loved how she created the story – using a character of her own to sort of continue the well-known legend of King Midas’ golden touch. It was unique and entertaining, more than what I thought it would be. So, when I heard that she was coming out with a new re-telling, I immediately grabbed the chance and requested for a reviewer’s copy.
That said, my expectations may have been set a little higher going into this book.
Tiger Queen was an interesting take on Stockton’s The Lady, or the Tiger with a bit of Peter Pan and Robin Hood elements thrown into the mix. Kateri was a compelling character. Sheltered and wanting validation from her King father, she’s naïve, blind to the real struggles of her people and every bit the privileged princess that she was. She has been taught that physical strength is equal to power, so she – with her father then, later on, her father’s cruel captain of the guard Rodric as her mentors – honed herself as a fierce, capable warrior in the arena ready to literally fight off all her suitors to prove her right to rule.
Her character growth was the most engaging part of this story. Escaping the palace walls that has for so long both protected and caged her, Kateri’s whole world – her truths, beliefs – was shattered, leaving her to learn the harsh reality of her kingdom and its people, of the betrayal of his father. The girl basically needed to pick up what pieces of herself she could salvage, and that’s a tough thing to deal with. I couldn’t help myself from cheering her on.
However, other than Kateri’s evolution, I just can’t find anything else about this story that really stood out for me. Yes, I was entertained enough that I was able to finish reading this in two days. It was fast paced and very much full of action. The Desert Boys gave this story a little bit more of color with their raids and their mission to help the people Achra the best they could. Obviously, I enjoyed this book, but do I see it making its mark in my brain? Sadly, the answer is no.
Tiger Queen was entertaining and enjoyable. It was a good story, but not a solid one. I found a better chunk of it bland – the antagonists were pretty much one dimensional, bad to the core with none of the nuance I was looking for in a fully-formed villain. The romance, too, did not do much for me. It was slow burn, I get that, but even in slow-burn romances you’ve got to layer in the tension, nudge the pairing together here and there where it makes sense – make it memorable enough that readers remember it and yearn (long) for your characters to be together. In Tiger Queen‘s case though, those little nudges were so subtle they were almost ignorable, and by the time Kateri and her love interest did finally get together, all I felt was an underwhelming meh.
Still, even if this book did not do much for me, I’m sure it will find a place in the hearts of other readers. Fans of YA re-tellings will especially love the creativity that went into this one.
ANNIE SULLIVAN grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. She received her Masters degree in Creative Writing from Butler University. She loves fairy tales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling. Her wanderlust has taken her to every continent, where she’s walked on the Great Wall of China, found four-leaf clovers in Ireland, waddled with penguins in Antartica, and cage dived with great white sharks in South Africa.