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Rant & Rave- Contest of Queens by Jordan H. Bartlett

Hi All! I'm checking in with another two books under my belt- Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone from Last month's Owlcrate box and Contest of Queens by Jordan H. Bartlett. I'll be brief with my thoughts on Lakesedge. I loved the gothic vibe of this novel. It was dark, but in a beautiful way. The sections about the corruptiuon shift from a realistic writing style to a flowing, poetic writing style. While I typically enjoyed this secondary style, Clipstone had a tendency to repeat herself in these sections, which felt almost lazy to me (even though I'm sure the point was to emphasize the repeated adjectives). My biggest complaint about the book was that I wish it had ended exactly one chapter earlier. It would have left more to the reader's imagination, and, in my opinion, concluded the book at a more appropriate point in the story. Today's Rant & Rave will be on a book coming out next January (2022)-Contest of Queens by Jordan H. Bartlett. I was honored to be able to read and review the book early, as well as email back and forth directly with author Jordan H. Bartlett. She even answered a few interview questions for me to put up here on the blog! Contest of Queens takes place in Frea, a world divided into two realms separated by their physical location. The wealthy Upper Realm towers over the poorer Lower Realm. Not surprisingly, the upper echelon of society, such as nobles and royals, reside in the Upper Realm, while everyone else is relegated to the Lower Realm. Passage between the two realms is rare, but when the Queen comes to the Lower Realm for a visit, it is made clear just how unhappy the Lower Realm is with the arrangement. Jacs, the main character of the book lives in the Lower Realm, on her family farm, but is quickly discovered and apprenticed by the master inventor in her village. She uses the knowledge acquired there to begin a relationship with Connor, an Upperite boy who sent a message over a waterfall and on to the Lower Realm in a boat. They build their relationship on the back of message-toting ships and hot air baloons over the next few years. Eventually, Jacs realizes that if she wants to prove to the queendom that Frea is better off united, and meet Connor, she will need to make it to the upper realm and win queenship in the contest of queens. So let's Rant... My biggest (and really only) complaint about this book was that it was so predictable. Being able to predict the ending of a book isn't an inherent negative for me, but in this case, it felt like it didn't have much in the way of unpredictable or clever occurances on the path to the ending either. There were definitely plenty of events in the plot, but none of these were unique to this story. It felt like the solutions to each problem were taken from similar situations in other novels. Regardless, the ending and flow of the story were definitely appropriate for the book and its message. To me, this book was closer to a middle grade novel than a young adult novel, given the amount of innocence and lack of skepticism in the main characters. I think it could have been improved as a young adult book with some more instances that break from the optimistic, whimsical nature of the book. And Let's Rave... My favorite part about this book was that Jacs had her priorities straight. As someone who reads quite a bit of young adult books, it is soooo refreshing to see a strong female lead who prioritizes her family, her friends, and her mission above the romantic interest. I really liked the quirky, fantastical atmosphere of the novel. With the clever inventor theme, the literal castle in the sky, Jacs' general optimism, and the development of the relationship between Jacs and Connor, Bartlett really captured and combined some of the best parts of fantasy and steampunk. One of the other things I liked about Contest of Queens is that the contest itself isn't violent. It is a twist on the usual "battle for the throne" trope, and being non-violent allows the book to remain focused on unification, as well as maintain the whimsical air established in the novel. I think it was an excellent choice on the author's part. I wanted to give you guys a little information about Jordan H. Bartlett and her book. Here is a link to her website, where she has links to buy books, an author bio, and some other good stuff, like a collection of fairytales: You can buy Contest of Queens (release date in January 2022) from the following link: Now on to the questions Jordan H. Bartlett was kind enough to answer for us! 1. The only real "magic" in Contest of Queens is scry crystals. Do you picture Frea having magic and magic users, or are scry crystals more like a form of science or invention that has yet to be explained? The only magic elements I wanted to include in Frea were the scry crystals and the Griffins. With both we have seen a fraction of their potential in the first novel and their uses (and abuses) will definitely be explored in later novels. I wouldn't necessarily call the crystals a scientific invention, but because Jacs is very science minded, they will likely be explored in a more scientific manner (to align with how she views the world). 2. We saw some of your thoughts on women versus men in power throughout the book. Have you found that, as female representation in government in the real world continues to increase, your ideas have been realistic? I hope so! I definitely drew from real female rulers and researched matriarchal societies for inspiration, but I think too that, since my world doesn't have foundation in a patriarchy, I feel I wasn't tethered by it, whereas females in power in our world still very much have to navigate our patriarchal values/systems/prejudices. 3. What is your favorite fairytale (and version, if applicable), and why should we all read it? Oh great question, I love fairy tales in general, and I'm a huge Disney fan. I love both iterations of the little mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen's original and the Disney version). Mostly because both deal with the idea of belonging. I moved around a lot as a kid and often felt like a fish out of water, so I really related to her story. I also love that in both the original and in the Disney version, the mermaid finds a sense of belonging at the end (either with the spirits of the sky, or in the human world with the blessing of her family). However, while I love fairytales, some of the messages in the originals about gender and love are a bit outdated (obviously, they were written for a different time) so I recently published a collection of 9 fairytales titled, The Rose Petal Princess, that I'm really proud of and that I hope is a bit more relatable for the modern reader (more information on my website). Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Jordan! Thanks for reading, and, as always feel free to comment your thoughts on the books or on my evaluations below- I love hearing from you guys! Dana


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