Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan
From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”
In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.
But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.
Expected publication: September 10th 2019 by Blink
This shouldn’t be too spoilery since we learn a lot in the beginning of the book. I did not include any major spoilers.
I loved A Touch of Gold, but I loved Tiger Queen even more! My only complaint (besides a food thing I’ll mention below) is that I want more from this world.
Kateri has spent her whole life living in Achra. After her mother and sibling died, Kateri’s father began preparing her to lead. She was told about the history of Achra and how the desert chose the first leader. Achra has been plagued by a drought that started before Kateri was born. She doesn’t know any different. Her father restricts water, but not so much for his home. Kateri is never hungry or thirsty. She even takes baths. Because she was taught to fight and also to hate, Kateri is pretty oblivious to what is going on in Achra. She knows what she is told and she is angry.
The king is never afraid to tell the people of Achra that The Desert Boys are stealing the water and drying up the wells. They killed the queen and her newborn son. They are to blame for everything wrong. So when a desert boy is captured, he is put on display in the arena to chose a door. Behind one door is freedom and behind the other is a hungry tiger ready to kill them. Kateri cheers this on. She wants revenge for the one person who really loved her, the queen. The Desert Boys are led by a young man named Cion that was said to be the best fighter alive. He is talked about so much that Kateri questions if he’s really a real person. That is until she meets him by a well while the Desert Boys were on a raid.
Kateri has to battle every month leading up until her 17th birthday. If she loses, she has to marry the winner and he becomes the ruler. If she wins, she will rule. Her trainer is Rodric, a hateful man that her father adores. Rodic is bad. We learn this very quickly. There is a lot more to him that comes out later in the book, so I won’t ruin that for anyone.
Kateri’s father makes a choice that she doesn’t agree with. She needs to flee in order to get the help she needs. And that help is found with Cion and the Desert Boys. Kateri is reluctantly taken in by them and trained by Cion. She starts to learn more about the Achra outside her walls. There are secrets that come out and Kateri wonders if anything in her life was the truth. She has to make some big decisions on what she believes is right.
I guessed right away that there would be a enemy to lovers relationship in the book and that is my favorite. There is not much romance though. It’s more about the strange feelings Kateri has for Cion. She also found a family in the Desert Boys (and I love found family stories).
I loved everything that took place in the desert. The boys, especially Cion (swoon) and Dimic. I loved the dangers and the training. I loved how Cion knew how to use the sand to his advantage. And I loved how the “boys” took care of each other as family. Kateri was used to a king that only looked out for himself first and then a handful of others. He ruled with fear while Cion ruled with love.
“In this desert, we all have to take care of each other.”
I can’t really get into anything else without ruining the story. I will add that the food was hard for me to read as a lizard breeder. They eat lizards, snakes, and scorpions. So be prepared for that. I also struggled with the half starved tigers being held captive. Anything with animals being mistreated makes me sad.
Warnings: Captivity, not enough food or water that ends up killing people, abuse, mention of sex without consent, deaths including children and a baby, torture (kind of), abuse/captivity of animals, forced marriage. I feel like there might be more that I’m forgetting.
I gave this book 5 stars. Thank you to Blink and Edelweiss for my review copy. This will end up on my favorites of the year list.
Have you read Tiger Queen (or A Touch of Gold)? Is this on your TBR?