Freya might be in the line of succession to the throne, but being in the double-digits in that line doesn’t inspire dreams of ruling. She’s dedicated herself to a life of science and logic, not of leadership and diplomacy. When a state dinner becomes the location of a massacre, leaving the king and everyone else between #2 and #22 dead, Freya has no choice but to step up.
As you can imagine, almost no one is happy about this turn of events – least of all Freya – but she is determined to do her best. This means looking at old allies with new eyes and learning other lessons along the way Rhiannon Thomas’ Long May She Reign is a rarity in the world of YA Fantasy – a stand-alone novel – and AAR Staffers Melanie, Shannon, and Kristen are here to share their thoughts about it.
SD: Let’s start out talking about the book as a whole. Did you or did you not enjoy it? I did – I enjoyed the story, which is well-paced, and I was eager to find out who was responsible for the death of the king. I liked seeing Freya grow into her new role as queen, and several of the supporting characters were pretty wonderful too.
MB: I agree – the pacing of the story was surprisingly well-done. I wasn’t sure at the beginning, especially since it’s so easy for first person narration to get bogged down in said narrator’s thoughts, but it worked really well for the story.
It was great to see a main character thrust into a role she doesn’t want, doesn’t feel suited for, and really embrace it. The various supporting characters were generally interesting (though I had trouble with our antagonist), but the world-building was a bit lacking overall.
KD: I think you guys liked it more than I did. It was fine, and yes, I was intrigued by some elements, but the world building was so thin and I had so many questions that I was routinely pulled out of the story. What is it with the Forgotten? Why, when there is such a brouhaha over who is or is not a royal, did we not really get to know anyone who wasn’t?
There’s a balance to be struck with world-building and I can only imagine how hard it is! For whatever reason, this all fell flat.
The major redeeming quality about the book was Freya herself – I liked being in her head and I liked her in general. If the plot had focused more on her and hadn’t tried to shoe-horn in a romance that wasn’t, I think it would have been a stronger book.
SD: I struggled with the world-building as well. Certain aspects were quite vague. For example, how does the kingdom Freya now rules relate to surrounding kingdoms? What is the overall political climate of the world? I would also have liked to learn a bit more about the Forgotten. They’re mentioned quite often, but always in a way that seemed to imply the reader was familiar with who they were. Obviously, I was not. And, as Kristen says, all of the characters are nobles. It seemed strange not to have at least a few commoners here and there. People referenced them, but we never really saw them, and that made the world seem a little less real to me.
This is a stand-alone YA novel, something pretty rare in today’s market. Do either of you think this played a part in some of the things that fell flat for you? I ask because as I read it, I found myself wondering if the story might have evolved more over a few books. It seemed, in a way, that the author was trying to cram too much into one story, and there really wasn’t enough room for everything. The action was well-paced, but I think it was at the cost of the world-building.
KD: I did appreciate that as it’s pretty unusual these days, but Shannon, I think you’re correct in that most of the problems we’re identifying result from the book being a stand-alone. These huge, detailed worlds need time to percolate, or need a super detailed introduction that sets the stage. When neither of those are present, things get dicey.
MB: What did you two think of Freya? Kristen already called her the book’s redeeming factor, but what about the character herself? I mean, I really liked her and her awkwardness, but I liked her less as the story progressed. She went from being a really interesting character choice to something much more predictable.
SD: I thought Freya was a delightfully unconventional heroine. I loved her interest in science, and I could totally identify with her social awkwardness. She didn’t fit into court life at all, and I enjoyed seeing her struggle to become the queen her people deserved without compromising her own beliefs too much. She was very clever and resourceful, both traits I love in my heroines.
MB: Oh, I definitely liked how Freya’s unconventionality – her love of science was really interesting, and I absolutely applaud the author’s choice to have her – and others in the story – suffer from a variety of mental disorders. But I really got frustrated with how she made decisions later on, specifically those that involved Sten, Fitzroy and Madeleine. Her interest in science was great, but using it to triumph over the religious/superstitious beliefs of others is… problematic. And that doesn’t even start on the social anxiety issues that miraculously disappear once she gains a bit of confidence. That’s not how anxiety works.
SD: I hear you, Melanie. Perhaps this goes back to what we were saying about things possibly developing better over a series of books. Obviously, some series have poorly-developed characters, but I did wonder if Freya’s evolution might have seemed more authentic if it happened over a longer period of time. And her decision-making was definitely a little odd when it came to the antagonists. I would have liked those decisions to be more level-headed. There were times they seemed to emotional and therefore impractical.
MB: Exactly – for someone who so greatly prized science and the scientific method, her reactions were pure emotion. (Not to mention she seemed to look down on people who weren’t interested in science, and automatically thought everyone else around her was a vapid idiot. Not a good look, Freya.)
KD: Melanie, your articulation of her decision making process got me thinking. I think as the book progressed, I was so disillusioned by the rest of the faff happening that I put Freya in rose-tinted glasses. I still think she makes sense in this thinly-constructed world (ie: the book itself hates religion and faith, so Freya fits), plus she makes sense as a mercurial adolescent/young adult struggling to be comfortable in her own skin and wrestle with the mantle placed upon her. However, I take your points about her relationships and how she eventually treated people.
KD: So would you guys recommend this to YA Fantasy fans? I know a lot of folks who would appreciate the science focus, but ultimately there were too many plot holes and inconsistencies for me to be able to recommend it. It gets a C grade from me. What about you two?
MB: I enjoyed reading it, even with all the problems, so I’d give it a B-/C+, probably closer to the C+. As much as I loved reading a stand-alone YA for once, there was too much going on in a too thinly built world. It’s one of those where, looking back, I have more issues with it than I did while reading it.
SD: I would recommend this to others, but like both of you, I would do so with some qualifications. It earns a B from me, since I enjoyed it despite its flaws.