Today’s review is of Queen of the Wild by E.M. Howell. It is the first book in the Wildflowers and Evertrees series. I don’t remember exactly how I found this book. It may have been a Facebook ad (I fall prey to those a lot) or a Twitter promo thread.
Disclaimer: If you do not enjoy a moderate amount steam in your stories, this one is not for you. Additionally, this book does have some themes surrounding rape and sexual abuse. If you feel that may be triggering for you, I suggest you skip this one.
About the Author
E.M. Howell is a Canadian author hailing from Calgary, Alberta. She lives with her husband, their son, and two escape-artist felines.
She does some great Facebook livestreams (which is how I know the cats are escape artists). Like her page here.
About the Book
Queen of the Wild is available in for Kindle and in print from Amazon. At the time of this writing it is priced at $16.32 for print and $2.99 for Kindle. It is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, which is how I accessed the Kindle edition.
My print copy is around 460 pages, and Kindle lists the typical time to read at 7 hours at the time of this writing.
I am not aware of any plans for translation or audio at this time.
I like the exterior design. I vaguely recall that the cover was one of the things that caught my attention when I decided to download the book. Fun fact, the cover was created by the author’s husband. They seem to be quite the talented duo.
I will say that the style of the cover art feels more like a contemporary fantasy to me than the high fantasy romance the book actually delivers. And if I had to nitpick, the back cover is quite crowded. It’s a bit of a wall of text.
Still, I would give the exterior design 4 teaspoons.
The interior design is quite nice. The little flower art at the chapter headers and scene dividers is cute in both the print and the eBook versions. The decorative drop caps at the beginning of each chapter in the print edition are a nice touch of whimsy. There is a lovely map that very much suits the style of the book.
The interior design is a perfect 5 teaspoons.
Now. That being said, there is something to consider if you’re buying the print edition. Currently, a whole paragraph is missing at the end of Chapter Twenty-Eight. The chapter cuts off mid-sentence and Chapter Twenty-Nine starts on the same page, breaking the formatting pattern in the rest of the book. I was able to read the missing paragraph in the Kindle edition, and I will say it’s not exactly vital, but it was definitely something that took me out of my flow as a reader.
I of course reached out to the author. She let me know that they are aware and in the process of updating the print edition. For this reason, I am opting not to deduct from my score for the interior design. Likely by the time you are reading this any print copies going out will already be fixed.
Overall for design is 4 teaspoons.
Queen of the Wild plays on some classic romance tropes. We have the marriage alliance trope, the childhood friends trope, and the forbidden love trope. There’s nothing unique here that blows me away or intrigues me. As far the premise goes for a fantasy romance, it does the job.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first. The names of the majority of the characters in this book drove me crazy almost to the point of distracting. I found many of the nicknames to be like nails on a chalkboard.
There is a generous side cast, including the king and all of his siblings. I found the different friendships and sibling relationships to be well written, but if I go into each in detail we’ll be here all day. Since this is a romance, I am going to focus specifically on the romantic leads.
I went back and forth with being annoyed and smitten with Andrew Oakes. Given the type of book I was reading, I suspect that was the author’s intent. In a lot of ways he really is the typical romantic hero. Obnoxiously tall, well muscled, etc, etc. A bit thick headed where women are concerned. Still, other than the first chapter, I found him to be well written, and his emotional unraveling was great to read.
Zenobia is another story. She definitely does not fall into the same annoying thought patterns I’ve seen in a lot of other romance. She doesn’t prolong the conflict by being obtuse and whiny to get a few more pages into the book. She very much sees Andrew’s BS and calls him on it. Which I appreciated.
This one had a slow start for me. I had a little bit of trouble getting into it, for some reason. I’m not sure that the choice to open with Andrew pondering his distaste for Peoples’ Court was the best. If like me you have a hard time getting into this scene, please, keep going and give it a chance.
Once you get past the initial set-up, things really start to pick up quickly. Once I got into the meat of the story, I was enthralled and finished the book in a day.
I didn’t have a lot of trouble guessing the plot twist. However, I still think it was well done and the author did a good job sowing some doubts in me before the big reveal.
I really enjoyed the depth of the world in Queen of the Wild. There were aspects I could have done without; the Evertrees nearly broke my suspension of disbelief, for example. On the other hand, the intricacies of Vayreland’s society and religion were fascinating. The way the church tied in with the political and socio-economic conflicts of the book was great.
I also enjoyed that Howell had some consequences for Zenobia’s mixed heritage. I haven’t seen that a lot in fantasy with half elves. Usually the consequences of mixed heritage are some sort of ostracization and social commentary. Howell, on the other hand, gives us real genetic consequences besides the usual perks. It was a very nice touch.
One critique I have is that the use nicknames outside of dialogue was sometimes not consistent with the intimacy of the POV character. Cassopia being called “Opi” outside of dialogue in a scene from Zenobia’s POV didn’t feel right.
On the positive side, there are three things that I think Howell does very well in this book. The first is writing steamy love scenes that sizzle without going too far into cringe territory. No awful flowery euphemisms here.
Second, she really gives the reader some great laugh-out-loud moments. My husband had to come upstairs to see what all the noise was about.
And finally, I felt that once the story really got into the swing of things Howell built tension and suspense beautifully.
I ended up enjoying this book immensely once it really got into the story. I laughed a lot, and even cried a little. There was plenty of plot and deep worldbuilding to enjoy, and just the right amount of heat. I’m really looking forward to picking up sequel, Queen of the Sea in the near future.