The Queens of Renthia series by Sarah Beth Durst took me a really long time to read. I read the first book The Queens of Renthia in July 2019, and the last book in September 2022. Each time I started the next book, I regretted that it took me this long to pick it up. But with a TBR as out of control as mine, what am I to do.
The first book introduces the reader to the world of Renthia. The land is full of elemental spirits held under control by the queen. The spirits hate everything and everyone in their normal state, only caring to destroy and kill. Under the queen, they can be coaxed to reluctantly create and build. Some young inhabitants of the land who show elemental affinities can at least control the spirits to do no harm. These become pupils in academias, and the best of the lot can become heirs to the queen if they are selected by the talent-seeking champions.
The story follows Daleina, an academy student, and Ven, a former champion fallen into disgrace. Daleina’s talent is not strong, and while she is under no illusion about the strength of her elemental affinities, she has a strong will to protect and use her powers for the best. What follows is a tale full of twists and triumphs, and while you might be able to guess the ending, there is a lot to explore in the pages between.
On the cover, this seems like a typical YA story of a young, often overlooked girl rising to power, but I can assure you that it’s everything but that. All the characters have deeply layered goals and motivations, and the second and third book are as far as possible from a young adult story.
In the second book, a large part of the story follows a mother with a strong elemental affinity, who is trying to protect her family. The central parts of the story focus on the duties of motherhood, the duties a mother has to herself, and the duty she might have to her threatened country. I won’t tell more because I don’t want to spoil everything.
The third book finishes the trilogy, turning the conflicts between people and spirits, as well as the political conflicts of two countries rivalling for resources to a climax. The author does some very interesting things to twist her take on a typical story solution much further than you would expect. I really, really like what she has done during the final chapters of the book, and I cannot recommend this series more.