Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Kingdom of Little Wounds

A young seamstress and a royal nursemaid find themselves at the center of an epic power struggle in this stunning young-adult debut.

On the eve of Princess Sophia’s wedding, the Scandinavian city of Skyggehavn prepares to fete the occasion with a sumptuous display of riches: brocade and satin and jewels, feasts of sugar fruit and sweet spiced wine. Yet beneath the veneer of celebration, a shiver of darkness creeps through the palace halls. A mysterious illness plagues the royal family, threatening the lives of the throne’s heirs, and a courtier’s wolfish hunger for the king’s favors sets a devious plot in motion.

Here in the palace at Skyggehavn, things are seldom as they seem — and when a single errant prick of a needle sets off a series of events that will alter the course of history, the fates of seamstress Ava Bingen and mute nursemaid Midi Sorte become irrevocably intertwined with that of mad Queen Isabel. As they navigate a tangled web of palace intrigue, power-lust, and deception, Ava and Midi must carve out their own survival any way they can.

Beth says 3 Stars...
My feelings about this novel are complicated, much like the story itself.  I just saw the cover on the library website and connected it with the Printz Honor win which decided me.  I expected some sort of epic fantasy with intrigue, betrayal, and magic.  There's definitely intrigue and betrayal, but the magic is only incorporated as medieval superstition.  It took me several weeks to read the book; I just couldn't get into it for large chunks of time.  The plot is fairly slow-moving and meanders despite the intensity of the subject matter.  I'm not a particularly squeamish reader (I made it through American Psycho), but there's an undeniable gross factor about many parts of the book.  Some of the descriptions of the medical practices of the day and the sexual situations get a bit graphic.  The sex scenes are almost universally uncomfortable because they almost always represent some sort of power struggle in a relationship.  The palace and its world are richly detailed, which is the main joy of the book.  The world-building is incredible and what kept me reading.

There are so many characters that flit in and out of the story that it gets a bit hard to keep track of the minor players.  The perspective frequently shifts between Ava, Midi, and a third person narrator that follows a variety of characters.  I think this is one of the reasons I had a hard time getting into the book since I dislike the shifting narratives.  The book excelled at creating complex and varied characters.  All of them had different motivations and unique stories that wove in and out of one another.  I found none of the characters particularly likable because they all had to do unpleasant things to survive.  The closest I came to liking someone was with Grammaticus, the historian, but he still uses people to gain power and influence.  The maneuvering and power struggles were so intricate and definitely my favorite part of the book.

This isn't a book for everyone.  It's slow, dark, and constantly rotates narrators and narration styles.  It's rich and at times rewarding, but perhaps not ideal for the average reader.
ebook from library


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