When I read A Wicked Thing and its sequel, Kingdom of Ashes, I fell in love with Rhiannon Thomas’s writing. Well, in this standalone (yay, finally, a standalone fantasy!), her amazing writing can once again sweep you off your feet and into an intriguing fantasy world that you won’t want to leave!
One night, at the King’s birthday party, Freya, who is completely bored, has a panic attack and rushes from the castle. Her best friend Naomi follows her, and when Freya has an idea that she needs to experiment with in her science lab, the two of them rush back to Freya’s house and work all through the night, missing out on the majority of the King’s party.
When Freya’s father comes rushing home in a panic, and is relieved to see that Freya is still alive and healthy, he informs her that the reason for concern is the fact that everyone in the castle has been poisoned – and only a few, of the many who attended the party, are still alive.
He also informs her that since almost everyone had died, including the king, Freya, who was twenty-third in line to the throne, is now the queen of Epria.
“‘Listen to me, Freya. Everyone is dead. Everyone before you. That makes you queen.'”
She is seventeen and has no interest in being queen. Or any idea at all as to what she is doing.
When she an Naomi are taken to a safe place, called the fort, Freya is briefed on everything that has happened, is introduced to her advisors, and rushed into being the queen. During this time, she meets other members of the court who have survived, including Madeleine Wolff, a girl who is practically perfect and everyone loves, and Fitzroy, the King’s illegitimate son, who pretty much everyone likes to forget about. Over time, the four of them spend plenty of time together trying to solve the mystery of who had poisoned the food at the King’s birthday party.
Freya has all of the equipment of her old lab moved into the fort and creates a new one, where she spends plenty of time with Fitzroy, enlisting his help to try and create a way to replace the tasters who work to make sure that the food being served isn’t poisoned. The two of them slowly begin to talk about things, and Fitzroy becomes an ally for Freya – she confides in him and asks him for her help for a variety of things.
“What did it matter how shallow someone curtsied, when so many people were dead? I needed to know – who had killed everyone, how had they done it, why?”
However, when some members of the court break off and threaten Freya’s life because they do not like what she as doing as queen, and want to replace her, she must race against the clock to come up with a solution to fight them, even if there aren’t many still on her side. Faced with such decisions, she is also still trying to figure out who killed everyone in the palace so that she can prove her innocence and try to win back the kingdom.
One of the most interesting aspects about Long May She Reign is probably the fact that has so much going on terms of politics. I’m not usually a fan of politics in any book I read, but there was a lot of descriptions around the court, the kingdom, and the way that Freya and the previous king had ruled. I found this to be really interesting, and a great look into what went on in the palace.
My favorite part about this book was Freya’s character – she’s a mostly independent girl who loves science. Yes, she isn’t a frail, annoying, poorly written YA main character who just needs a strong guy to come rushing in and sweep her off her feet. Nope, not Freya. She does her own thing. Also, Freya deals with an anxiety disorder, which causes her to have panic attacks – I thought this was interesting, and it made it easy to relate to her character, because I’ve suffered from anxiety for years. So imagine how happy I was to read this when the protagonist in a YA fantasy by one of my favorite authors did, too.
But at the same time, that kind of fell short – it seemed like Freya had a lot of panic attacks in the beginning of the book, but by the halfway point through the ends, they seemed to kind of taper off – and she became able to give speeches and talk to people with ease. It seemed like she was able to turn her panic attacks off whenever she felt like it. Also worth noting was that throughout the book she remained true and loyal to what she believed in, even if it wasn’t what everyone else thought was right. She even stood up to her father and advisors multiple times because they were doing something that Freya didn’t think was right, and she wanted to change.
“‘There’s no point in fighting for the throne if you’re not going to make a difference.'”
And oh, the friendships in this book! Freya spends so much time with her best friend, Naomi. The two of them were practically inseparable before the tragedy struck, and afterward, Freya even demanded that Naomi share her rooms with her. When Madeleine and Freya became friends, the three of them were practically unstoppable as they tried to solve the mystery as to how everyone in the palace was poisoned. Add in Fitzroy, when he and Freya become friends, and it’s such a powerful friendship between them. It was so nice to see a book that had such a focus on friends – it’s so common to see a YA book with romances, but friendships are so much better.
As far as the romance in Long May She Reign goes, there was a tiny spark of one, but really nothing that overtakes the entire plot of the book like some others. It wasn’t even an insta-love type thing, but rather a slow-burn that took almost to the end of the book to reach anything, and for most of the book, they don’t even think of each other as more than just friends.
While trying to figure out the mystery of who poisoned everyone in the castle, I definitely had a hard time figuring it out. While I kind of expected the truth to be a lot more explosive than it was, it was a well thought out mystery, and I really didn’t imagine it turning out the way it did. It was quite interesting to see how the author made everything fit together so well.
Also, there’s a cat. It’s adorable the way that Freya loves her cat, and takes her everywhere. She even risks her life to save her cat when she is being attacked. So yes, I really loved Freya’s character, if not for how she handles everything else, than for how she loves her cat.
While the ending of this seemed a bit rushed, especially when combined with the slower beginning and middle, I couldn’t put this down – it was amazing. I wish it could have been a little longer so that the ending scenes would have a lasted a bit more and could have been more detailed, but other than that, I think this is an amazingly written and enjoyable fantasy.