Book Review: The Girl King – Mimi Yu

I feel like I’ve written so many reviews lately and that’s so exciting! I can be really lazy! But look at me go *insert laughing/crying emoji here*


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Name: The Girl King
Author: Mimi Yu

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: January 8, 2019

Synopsis

All hail the Girl King. 

Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead—a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally—and an army—if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved…

Alone in the volatile court, Min’s hidden power awakens—a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign…or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.


Book Cover Comments

I love Lu’s ferocity on the cover. You already know she’s going to be a total badass. I really think the contrast between the gray and black and then that stark, brutal red makes everything work. (I love when the actual book binding of a book isn’t just plain black, so the red absolutely did it for me)


The Actual Review

I bought this book the day it came out (January 8), and I was so excited to read it! Naturally, as soon as I got back to my dorm room, I passed out without even opening it (school is hard!). But I kept up a pretty steady pace with reading this book, usually going through about one or two chapters per day.

The pacing was a bit slow at first, and I felt like it took the book a while to gather its reins and really take off, but I also see how there was just so much world-building and backstory and all kinds of really important pieces that needed to go into the first few chapters, or else readers might’ve been confused. Fortunately, the dramatic irony really did its job in keeping my interest piqued: the prologue starts off with a big !!!! and then by the time the ball gets rolling around the third chapter, everything turns into a !!!!! which is always really fun to read.

The Girl King also features a lot of elements that are very familiar for YA Fantasy, most predominantly: girl must take back her throne. But I have to say, the characters were so refreshing, that I honestly didn’t mind. Lu is introduced right off the bat as a total badass, but whereas some characters walk onto the page announcing that they’re so cool, sometimes that coolness wears off as the book goes on. But Lu’s sharp mind, stubbornness, and general badassery was really consistent. She didn’t let herself get left behind, but there were also situations where she learned (begrudgingly) that she sometimes doesn’t always know best.

Nokhai I found really fascinating as our main male character. Usually when a badass girl is paired up with a guy she has (bad) history with, I find their dynamic…not great. They just clash but suddenly love each other and I get so confused and anyway that isn’t what happened with these two. Nokhai is a special breed of YA male character who manages to be charming and aloof but also funny and relatable and awkward. At one point, he gets kissed and his brain practically short-wires. It really made me remember how young the characters actually are, which I think sometimes gets lost in translation with YA fantasy. But Nok’s backstory, family history, and general selflessness made me really respect him as a character. Plus, he’s associated with wolves (not going to give anyone anything more than that but wolves).

Our third POV is that of Min, Lu’s younger sister. And wow! Do I have thoughts and feelings about Min! Min was a character that I didn’t see coming; at first, I was honestly annoyed by her POV, and found Lu’s and Nok’s way more interesting. But watching Min’s character unfold, and her connection to…ugh spoilers. Basically: Min? So freaking cool. It’s difficult for me to sum up what made Min so awesome to read about without giving away the entirety of the book, but when Min finds her backbone: I got shivers. Wow.

Finally, I just have to love the world-building with this one. The story of the First Flame, the Ana and the Aba, the rivalry between Hu and Hana, it was all so fascinating and fun to read about! I especially loved that some of our characters rode elk; that’s such a special little detail that makes this world really shine.


Ultimately, The Girl King isn’t anything we haven’t seen before in YA fantasy, plotwise at least. But if I’m being perfectly honest I haven’t ever read a YA book that I haven’t seen in a different YA book before. The Girl King, however, is really special because the characters take control of the story, and it really seems like their story, not just a story that is happening to them. They were all interesting to read about, really very different, and watching them development was really fun. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the sequel!

~Ava

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