Rumors of war hang over Princess Jeniah's peaceful country of Arden, a land that shuns both magic and warfare. Following a lifelong dream, Jeniah forms a telpathic bond with a revered creature called a chayim, who is prophesied to save her kingdom. But when a Darborian knight comes upon Jeniah with her chayim, he sees only a vicious monster about to devour a maiden, and he slays the beast.
Devastated by the loss of her chayim, and fearing that her own magic is evil, Jeniah doubts her destiny. When an enemy invades Arden City, they slaughter the people, storm the castle, and execute the entire royal family except the princess. Rescued by the knight who slew her chayim, Jeniah is now heir to the throne of Arden and the only hope for freeing her people from tyranny.
On the run and hunted by enemy soldiers, Jeniah must place her life and the fate of her kingdom in the hands of this trained killer. Torn between embracing her destiny as queen of Arden, and her love for a mere knight, she must ultimately rely on her magic to save herself and her people from death and tyranny.
I will admit that I was a little skeptical when I first picked up Queen in Exile by Donna Hatch. I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it - I'm strange when it comes to fantasy. I like most elements of it, and yet some just ... don't work for me. I don't really understand high fantasy, and when everything has strange names and I'm having to keep twelve thousand characters straight ... that's not my talent. I have to say, though, that I was very pleasantly entertained by this novel.
Kai, the Darborian knight, did cause a few heart flutters in this crusty old reviewer. I was very intrigued by the connection between Jeniah and her magical creature, the chayim - which reminded me of the tales of maidens and their ability to touch unicorns, but the chayim connection is a lot deeper and has more purpose. The plot moved forward at a really good pace and I read it in two or three sittings.
I liked the combination of action and romance, adventure and magic. All in all, it was a very enjoyable read - without twelve thousand strange names to remember. I was able to track everything just fine.
Stay tuned for my interview with author Donna Hatch.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my review, but that did not influence my opinion.