As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood in the ancient Tarachand Empire, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.
But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.
Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.
King’s debut novel, The Hundredth Queen is a fantasy tale based off of Sumerian mythology that focuses upon the ideology of sisterhood and women working together as Kalinda must fight for her place amongst the King’s one-hundred wives, and to prove to those around her that, despite her sickly past, she is stronger than she appears. The Hundredth Queen is a novel full of action, romance, and magic as Kalinda attempts to save herself, those around her, and live the life she has always wanted.
I absolutely adored the way that King implemented Sumerian culture and mythology into the novel, and how it became the groundwork for pushing the narrative forward. I felt like I learnt a lot about their culture through the stories told to help flesh out the importance of Kalinda being the one-hundredth wife whilst also still understanding that this was a work of fantasy where some elements could be twisted. It was a brilliant blend of culture, society, class, gender, and magic as Kalinda is brought into this world entirely new for her, and for us.
The magic within this novel is almost akin to that of Ruby in Fireblood through the Burners. I only lightly put this similarity forward as I still felt like the Bhutas and their ability to wield the elements was a concept that I found original and unique to this story and really helped to bring the narrative to life by presenting Kalinda with her own personal conflict, as well as that of the rani’s and courtesans around her. Though I feel that there is a lot we could still learn about the group called Bhutas, I believe that this is something King will, and should, develop further in the next novel within the series given the events that have taken place.
Kalinda is a strong feminine lead for this fantasy novel, paving the way – alongside other woman in fantasy – for heroines and strong female leads. I would put her up there with Kelsea from the Tearling series, as well as Ruby from Fireblood (being the two more prominent characters that currently come to mind). In the beginning she appears weak, fragile, and the underdog within the Sisterhood and the many wives of the king. She has suffered from an illness that leaves her with burning fevers that can only be staved off by a special tonic brewed by the temples healer. However, as the novel progresses and Kalinda begins to realise the path that her God has put her on, and the changes within herself, Kalinda starts to show her true strength and her determination to right the wrongs that have festered over her country.
Though the love interest was definitely one of insta-love, I still found myself shipping Kalinda and Deven from the get go. It was clear that there as an attraction to the two and it really came alive upon the page. King really knows how to write characters that are fleshed out to a degree that they appear real and truly bring the narrative to life by how vividly they have been depicted.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and was one that I couldn’t put down. I enjoyed the thematic concerns surrounding sisterhood and women being second-rate to men and felt that this was definitely one of those stories that needed to be told in order to understand the culture and society within this world. I felt that these issues helped to bolster Kalinda as a character and to make her stronger, portraying her as a modern-day woman in a fantasy world set in the past.