Queen of All (The Jena Cycle Book 1), Anya Josephs
By Natasja Hellenthal
Jena lives on her family’s struggling farm and in her beautiful friend Sisi’s shadow. She’s not interested in Sisi’s plans to uncover the Kingdom’s darkest secrets: the suppression of magic, and the crown prince’s systemic murder of those who practice it.
Jena only wants to keep a secret of her own—her changing feelings for Sisi. Yet when a letter arrives summoning Sisi to the royal Midwinter Ball, Jena has no choice but to follow her into a new world of mystery and danger.Sisi falls into a perilous romance with the very crown prince she despises.
Desperate to save her, Jena searches for answers in the halls of the palace and in the ancient texts of its library.She discovers that the chance to save her friend, and their world, lies in her own ability to bring the magic back and embrace her own power.
“My mother once told me that the Goddess made the Earth round because that shape shows us the nature of the universe. The Earth, like a womb, circles back in on itself, holding us within the warm embrace of Her body. Time, she told me, is a circle too. Everything we lose comes back to us again.”
I was given a free copy from Netgalley to review this book.
The just-released novel “Queen of All” by Anya Leigh Josephs is an engaging, sweet coming-of-age fantasy read.
The story is set in a medieval kind of alternative Earth with kingdoms and heirs and where being Numbered gives one more privilege than for those who are not. It reminded me slightly of ‘The Mist of Avalon’, but for a younger audience perhaps or those young at heart with the same kind of old magic.
It is told from Jena’s point of view who is fourteen and lonely and lives in the shadow of nineteen-year-old Sisi who is her best friend and the most beautiful girl in the land. They both grow up together in the palace. Sisi is a Numbered and heir and Jena is more of a servant and will follow her anywhere until slowly she comes to understand that her feelings for Sisi have deepened. Despite this, she wants Sisi to be happy. Throughout her journey, she discovers that she has access to the ancient powers of the Goddess and the Earth and uses it wisely.
It is truly beautifully written and the characters well fleshed out. The world-building throughout is excellently done and one can easily imagine being there. The family ties were well described and all the details of their past. At times it was slightly repetitive and slow, but it did not take away from the pace or intrigue. If anything it just amplified the feelings and a book with feelings it certainly is! Those are my favourite reads.
In the end, I had to wipe away a few tears as I was so moved by Jena’s story and her courage, and the maturity she had reached! I was proud of her and really liked her. I can’t wait for what happens in the next book and whether and how she’ll find her mother!
At its heart, it’s a coming of age story and what that truly means, and about being loyal, devoted, and harnessing and expressing a selfless love without expecting anything back so that it becomes a self-sacrifice. I would recommend this book to everyone who remembers what it was like falling in love for the first time unconditionally and wholeheartedly, even if it’s not reciprocated, and how one can simply lose oneself, but then one day you wake up!
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