I seriously can’t describe this book more appropriately than that one sentence. Let me expound upon it further. The first book in the Annals of the Bitch Queen trilogy by K.S. Villoso is a highly character-driven fantasy, which is probably my favorite type of story direction. That said, I’m going to start my review with the only con I had on the book, which is the main character, Queen Talyein; she lived up to the name of the series perfectly. I mean it, she’s seriously a Bitch Queen.
I’m not going to sugarcoat my words here, throughout the book I was infuriated, yet I found it hard to stop reading. At one point, I actually thought “there’s no way this book is receiving more than 3 stars rating from me, just no way.” Why? Simple: being inside Talyein’s head was often maddening because she made tons of stupid decisions and illogical actions, which went on for a long time. For a character-driven book, I need to be able to root for the main character, which was extremely hard to do during most of my time of reading this book. Not to mention that the story revolved heavily around Talyein’s obsession with his ex-husband who we know betrayed her in the beginning of the book; the saying “love is blind” is one of the driving force behind this book.
“The thought of what had been—of what could yet be—persisted. Perhaps it is not the same for most people. Perhaps, when you love less, it is easier not to let the emptiness become a cavern from which you could no longer see the sun.”
However, the last 50 pages almost completely changed my opinions about those negative aspects. Every decision, finally made sense whether you agree with her or not. It’s obvious that throughout the narrative, Talyein is hiding something from the reader, she’s keeping this “tough outlook, soft-hearted” mask; it’s not until the last 50 pages—where the story goes full throttle and becomes addictive—that the reader finally understands all the reasons behind it.
I must say that, by the end, I was impressed by what K.S accomplished. It’s not easy to make a character-driven story with this kind of main character. I can already imagine how many people will go “Why are you so stupid???” “Why did you do that!?” but trust me, as annoying as the main character can be, there’s a reason for it. This also means that the last two books have plenty of room for major improvements for the character development and if K.S managed to pull it off, this will be a fantastic character-driven trilogy.
Not only was the pacing of the book fantastic, the world-building was equally great, with plenty of histories and a vivid environment. K.S introduced these aspects gradually, and even though this book takes place in the same world as her previous trilogy—Agartes Epilogue, which I haven’t read yet—I found it absolutely okay to start reading her work here without any difficulty. Plus, the simplicity of the prose made this book highly compelling and addictive to read despite how infuriating some of Talyein’s decision could be. Also, the 1stperson narration was written really well; there’s an emotional line of thinking behind Talyein’s actions and we know all her thoughts behind them, whether we agree or not.
Despite my pessimism about the book, by the end, I found that I enjoyed it as a whole much more than I disliked certain parts. You have to be patient reading this book, but believe me, it’s worth it in the end. If you’re a fan character-driven stories featuring a complex female heroine, this is something you should definitely try. There is much room for development in the series and if K.S manages to make Talyein likable in the next two books in a realistic way, The Annals of the Bitch Queen will most likely become a satisfying and exhilarating series with rich character development in it.
P.S: The Asian cuisine description is seriously delightful to read, so prepare to play hunger games with your fridge.
Release date: January 29th, 2018