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The Girl King

Review

The Girl King

Mimi Yu’s THE GIRL KING follows sisters Lu and Min, daughters to the Emperor of the First Flame. As the eldest, Lu is certain that she is going to be named heir by her father. When her father names her cousin Set as heir, however --- with Lu as his betrothed --- both princesses’ lives are changed. Lu eventually flees the court, leaving her sister behind to deal with the chaos of her departure. On her journey to reclaim her throne and place as the first female ruler, Lu meets an old friend who turns out to have some interesting powers of his own. Following an incredible cast of characters, THE GIRL KING tells a story of family, power and magic.

"THE GIRL KING has so many wonderful aspects of YA fantasy; there’s action, drama, adventure, magic and hints of romance....If you’re a fan of East Asian-inspired fantasies with female leads then this is the book for you."

Stories of females in power are my favorite, and THE GIRL KING, with its main characters Lu and Min, along with other females throughout, does not disappoint. The multiple perspectives make it so enjoyable to read, and we really are able to get to know each and every character. Min’s perspective enables readers to get a glimpse of what is happening inside the court after Lu’s departure, and the machinations of their mother the Empress and their cousin Set. I also enjoyed getting to know Nok and how complex of a character he became after his initial introduction. Min’s character definitely developed the most out of everyone. Readers are literally able to see her become a woman. Her confidence grows parallel to her uncertainty as the people around her try to manipulate her without having her wellbeing in consideration.

The mystery of Yunis, Nok’s shapeshifting abilities and Min’s magic are slowly revealed throughout the novel, and I’m curious to see what the next book brings. There seems to be a lot of magic floating around in this world and it’s interesting to see that everyone has a hand in some kind of magic except Lu. The story about Lu, Min and their mother could be its own novella, but I do hope it is explained more in the next book. The plot follows a familiar pattern that many young adult fantasies have, so I’m also hoping that the next book has more surprises and twists that aren’t as formulaic. Because of this, I did find the book a little boring at times.

The strained relationship Lu has with her sister from the start causes the rift to widen between them the moment Lu isn’t announced as heir. From the beginning, their mother and father play the favorites game and that causes the sisters to envy one another for having more of either their mother or father’s love. Min’s envy of Lu also makes it easy for Set to take advantage of Min. While the novel focused mainly on Lu, I think that Min is a more interesting character with her magic and the power that she has. I wonder what will happen in the next book between her and Lu. Will Min want the throne? Lu will probably have to face off with her sister eventually, but I wonder if they’ll ever reconcile.

THE GIRL KING has so many wonderful aspects of YA fantasy; there’s action, drama, adventure, magic and hints of romance. Fans of Renee Ahdieh and Roshani Chokshi will definitely enjoy reading this book. If you’re a fan of East Asian-inspired fantasies with female leads then this is the book for you.

Reviewed by Ilona Kaydanov on January 16, 2019

The Girl King
by Mimi Yu