I stumbled across this f/f YA fantasy on Netgalley and fell in love first with the cover and then the synopsis. I was lucky enough to receive an advanced reader copy through them and NineStar Press in exchange for an honest review so a huge thank you for that!
If you’ve ever wanted a book with princesses falling in love with other princesses, is for you. Oh, and there are dragons. And unicorns. Princess Esofi of Rhodia has been betrothed to the Crown Prince Albion of Ieflaria since they were children but the two have never met. At age seventeen, when Esofi finally makes the journey to Ieflaria it is not for the wedding as she has always expected but instead to offer condolences on the death of her would-be husband.
But Ieflaria remains desperately in need of help from Rhodia for their dragon problem, so Esofi is offered a new betrothal. This time it is to Prince Albion’s younger sister, the new Crown Princess Adale. Adale has no plans to take the throne – after all it was always her brother who was supposed to rule. With pressure from her parents and increased dragon attacks, Adale must decide between marrying Esofi or giving up the crown and running away.
When it came to the characters, I was hopelessly in love with Esofi. She was a total badass, taking everything in stride . Some of the scenes with her battling dragons were my favorites. Adale also made for an amazing character, and I found myself empathising so much to her struggle to reconcile what she imagined her future would be with what the new expectations for her were after her brother’s death. However, she sometimes seemed a little underdeveloped by comparison to the incredible Esofi. The romance between them was perfect, though: sweet and tender, it was slow paced so there was plenty of time to love them both individually before growing to love them as a couple. Even the communication issues common in YA were resolved quickly.
The social aspects of the fantasy world that author Effie Calvin has built is beautiful. It made a nice change of pace to read queer speculative fiction in which we are not only represented but completely normal and accepted. Other stories of sapphic princesses I’ve read usually have them suffer for their sexuality, facing extreme prejudice from those around them. Not so here – if you want to read f/f fantasy without all the angst, pick up this one.
The world-building was clearly well-researched, but unfortunately, I think this is where the book fell short. On several occasions, the author brought up many intriguing elements, but there just wasn’t enough space to explore everything and I would have preferred slightly fewer elements but having them explored more deeply.
This book is only the first in a fantasy romance series, collectively titled the Tales of Inthya, so there’s plenty more to look forward to. The second book’s title hasn’t been announced yet, but I do know it will follow different characters next time around.
In summary, if you’ve been looking for a slow-paced, sweet f/f romance between princesses with a side plot about dragons and unicorns, The Queen of Ieflaria will be a dream come true.