About the book
Vianne di Rocancheil is a lady waiting at the Court of Arquitaine, where she studies her books, watches for intrigue, and shepherds her foolhardy Princesse through the glittering whirl. Court is a sometimes-unpleasant waltz, especially for the unwary, but Vianne treads its measured steps well.
Unfortunately, the dance has changed. Treachery is afoot in gilded and velvet halls. A sorcerous conspiracy is unleashed, with blood, death, and warfare close behind. Vianne must flee, carrying the Great Seal of Arquitaine with her. This is the one thing the conspirators need to rule, and they won’t rest until they have it. A life of dances, intrigues, and fashion has not prepared Vianne for this. Nor has it prepared her for Tristan d’Arcenne, Captain of the King’s Guard and player in the most dangerous games conspiracy can devise. Yet to save her country and avenge her Princesse, Vianne will become what she must and do whatever is required.
A Queen can do no less.
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I always equated Lilith Saintcrow with sappy romance; therefore, I stayed away from everything she wrote. Then I saw The Hedgewitch Queen for incredibly cheap on iBooks and decided to give her a shot. I hate to say it, but I probably should have followed my instinct and stayed away.
The Hedgewitch Queen is a mess, to put it lightly. The fantasy author needs to create a world that is so incredibly realistic the readers can suspend disbelief and immerse themselves in it. Plenty of authors manage this, but Saintcrow isn’t one of them. The faux world of our protagonist, Vianne, is heavily French inspired, which is fine, but Jacqueline Carey already based a series off of all things French and she did a wonderful job. Saintcrow has huge shoes to fill and she just doesn’t fill them. It seems as though Saintcrow took everything stereotypical and annoying that she could think of and created a world out of it. Some of the obviously French inspired words are just ridiculous and annoying. The monarchy and traditions are incredibly cookie-cutter and the world itself lacks so much visualization it’s hard to mentally picture any of it.
Enter our protagonist, Vianne, who might happen to be one of the most annoying characters in all literature. Vianne starts out fine. She’s a capable protagonist and rather interesting to follow, due to the fact that she’s not the normal noblewoman. She’s almost automatically immersed in political plots and various murder-esque situations. It’s interesting. Then, Vianne is forced to flee the palace (or ‘palais’ – see my rant about the annoying and tacky use of French words in the previous paragraph). Once Vianne leaves the palace it’s all downhill. She turns into a simpering, wimpy, constantly complaining excuse of a woman who seems to shed all of her unique, vibrant qualities like a bad rash and turns into just about every other female character I’ve read in all the bad urban fantasy books I’ve endured. Suddenly Vianne is gorgeous, incredibly smart, everyone loves her. She’s resourceful, and basically just the most badass person ever dreamed of. The kicker? She (of course) doesn’t realize any of this, or the fact that everyone who looks at her loves/adores her. She also (impossibly) saves the day (several times) with her sparkling wit.
Let me position my soapbox in the limelight for a moment and clear my throat before I start my rant.
I can’t begin to describe to you how annoying it is when I stumble across characters like Vianne (perfect and completely oblivious to it). In this case it was the death of the protagonist I was introduced to when the book started. Please, authors, for the love of whatever God you choose to believe/not believe in, please stop writing about women who are drop dead gorgeous and perfect in all respects but impossibly oblivious to that fact. First, it’s not believable at all and secondly, it’s been done far too many times. I’m sick of reading about characters like that. For once, I want to read about a woman who owns who she is and isn’t just a pawn of fate, and completely unaware of herself.
End of this rant; now, back to the review.
Then, after we finish mourning the death of the protagonist, we must take a moment to mourn the death of a fascinating plot. Murder and political machinations are right up my alley. I love my fantasy peppered with that stuff. However, once again when our lovely and absolutely nauseatingly perfect heroine leaves the palais the plot focuses on a high school style love drama more than anything else. Vianne loves so-and-so but is afraid to admit it to herself. So-and-so pines hopelessly after Vianne, so much so that mentally I exchanged his face with that of a basset hound, complete with sad, droopy eyes and a nice spot of drool on his jowls. Of course, politics and murder do play a role in the book but they are second fiddle to the budding love of two emotionally unstable, completely unbelievable characters.
Secondly, The Hedgewitch Queen meanders a lot. There is a lot of traveling that takes place in this book (which is hard to care about given the lackluster world), and plenty of mortal danger (that isn’t actually that mortal due to our perfect heroine). There is a part where Vianne leaves the group and sets off on her own. This is rather interesting because she is forced to interact with people she isn’t emotionally obsessed with, causing a spark of the Vianne from the beginning of the book to shine again. However, that flame is quickly quenched and, when I think about this section critically, I’m not exactly sure this side-trip has a point besides to ramp up the tension between the two lovers once they are reunited.
And perhaps that sort of thing satisfies some readers. To be fair, if you are looking for a love story that requires almost no thought at all, this might fit the bill. Just prepare yourself for an unbelievable world; some very annoying bastardized French, characters that aren’t believable, stilted dialogue, and a very meandering plot. However, The Hedgewitch Queen does have one redeeming characteristic. Saintcrow really can write. Her prose are lyrical and flowing, but I’m not sure they are worth sticking the book out for. There are plenty of other books with excellent prose I could point you in the direction of – and their plots might actually not give you a headache.