by Annie Sullivan
Published on: September 10, 2019
When I first read the description I honestly wasn’t so sure about reading a YA fantasy book written where the whole story is set in the desert. With an ongoing drought the kingdom Achra has a serious water shortage, meaning there was a whole population in a desperate situation with little hope. People slowly dying of thirst didn’t sound like a fun read. But then I reread the description and thought ‘you know…this one might be good.’ And I was right!
From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous 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.
The Tiger Queen opens in the arena. A Desert Boy had been caught smuggling contraband goods into the city. The Desert Boys are infamous because they steal the water from the city, exacerbating an already tenuous situation due to the drought. These boys live out in the desert where no one can survive and the guards have difficulty finding them so they are rarely caught. They also killed Kateri’s mother and baby brother years prior. Within these opening scenes we are quickly introduced to everything at stake: the Desert Boys, the King and his daughter Kateri, and Rodric the captain of the guards. But here we also learn about the underlying tensions and plots – water stealing and then rationing due to the stealing, motives for Kateri’s anger and distrust of the Desert Boys, and the dangers the arena and the desert can bring. Not only is there a lack of water, but the arena holds two very hungry tigers and the desert holds even more dangers, such as sand snakes and scorpions.
To be honest, the middle section is where I will always worry about in a book. Does it keep my interest? Do the secrets get told early enough to where I am not frustrated by lack of knowledge? Is there enough in the plot to ensure it doesn’t feel like it is just filler section? Thankfully, the middle in the Tiger Queen is where the 2nd part of the story begins. The plot and the pacing kept a steady rhythm as Kateri leaves the safety of he city and is introduced to the real desert as well as the Desert Boys and their leader, Cion. Here she requests their training so she can defeat the opponent she was assigned to fight, but first she has to convince them to help her and that she’s not there to betray them.
I truly don’t want to give away too much of the plot. But, I was intrigued by two aspects. First, how little can one human drink each day and still survive? I take water for granted – somewhat. I know we should conserve it as best we can, but I also know that it is always at my fingertips at the press of a button or turn of a handle. But I was equally interested in how much thought I gave the issue of how one goes about controlling an entire population – especially in the desert. And more importantly – why would you want to do that? It makes no sense to me. The lies one would tell to hold onto power often overwhelm my sense of understanding.
This book was a fun read and I loved how time flew by when reading it. It is also a stand-alone fantasy book. Those aren’t easy to find, but you definitely leave feeling that everything is taken care of at the end as the author provides a few ‘where are they now’ moments. Definitely recommend this to those who looking for a YA fantasy adventure and perhaps a hint of romance.
Rating: 5 stars
Thank you to Netgalley and Blink for the advanced reader copy and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I also want to thank the author for speaking on behalf of the Oxford comma in the Acknowledgment section. It gave me the opportunity to show someone who isn’t quite the believer in that comma and argue my point on why it should be used.