Two sisters become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor in this richly imagined, Asian-inspired fantasy for fans of Renée Ahdieh and Sabaa Tahir.
Sisters Lu and Min have always known their places as the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame: assertive Lu will be named her father’s heir and become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while timid Min will lead a quiet life in Lu’s shadow. Until their father names their male cousin Set his heir instead, sending ripples through the realm and throwing both girls’ lives into utter chaos.
Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu has no choice but to go on the run, leaving Min to face the volatile court alone. Lu soon crosses paths with Nokhai, the lone, unlikely survivor of the Ashina, a clan of nomadic wolf shapeshifters. Nok never learned to shift–or to trust the empire that killed his family–but working with the princess might be the only way to unlock his true power.
As Lu and Nok form a shaky alliance, Min’s own hidden power awakens, a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign . . . or allow her to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could very well turn out to be each other.
This sweeping fantasy set against a world of buried ancient magic and political intrigue weaves an unforgettable story of ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.
Part of Series: The Girl King(Book #1)
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Grotesque imagery, Mild sexual themes, Violence
Booklist (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. Princess Lu has trained since birth to become empress after her father’s passing, but he names her cousin his successor instead. When she challenges Lord Set to a contest to determine the rightful heir, she is ambushed and flees north to find an army to reclaim her kingdom. Instead she finds Nokhai, one of the few remaining shapeshifters in the empire and a former friend from her childhood, and although Lu was the reason for some of Nok’s scars, they journey north together. Meanwhile, Set marries Lu’s younger, submissive sister, Min, who has hidden magical abilities, and the four are on a collision course that could destroy everything they hold dear. First-time author Yu has ably crafted a fast-paced, seamless fantasy adventure full of action, mysticism, and female empowerment. Indeed, the women in the story are, with one exception, much more interesting than the men. Give this to fans of Cinda Williams Chima’s Shattered Realms series, Lauren DeStefano’s The Glass Spare (2017), or Susan Dennard’s Witchlands series.
Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
Two sisters—and the fate of an empire between them. Lu eagerly anticipates being appointed the next empress of the Hu dynasty. She has been training her body for battle since the age of 7 and at 16 is planning her first decree. Also known as the Small Princess, Minyi admires and resents her hotheaded sister. Lu’s plans go awry when the ailing emperor betroths her to Lord Set, naming him the successor. Plotting, scheming, and assassination attempts drive the sisters in different directions. Lu seeks to raise her own army with the help of the surviving Gifted Kith, shape-shifters, and the Yunians, magic users. Meanwhile, caught between the manipulations of Set, a monk, and her mother, Min awakens to a power she struggles to understand and the mean pleasure she derives from using it. Neither Min nor Lu are particularly likable characters: Lu’s arrogance is clearly displayed, while Minyi is emotionally self-flagellating at every opportunity. They are relatable, however, in terms of living in a sibling’s shadow and redefining the person you wish to be. The worldbuilding in this Asian-inspired setting is strong as the author slowly uncovers the empire’s origins, and the characters transform in surprising ways. Other than the gray eyes of the Hana family, most characters have dark brown eyes, black hair, and brown or tawny skin. Recommended for readers who enjoy imperfect characters and complex plots. (Fantasy. 14-18)
About the Author
Mimi Yu was born and raised in rural upstate New York. Her hometown is the site of both the Women’s Rights Convention (1848) and the largest active landfill in New York State (ongoing).
She currently resides in the SF Bay Area of California, and soon she will live near Chicago. She has never been a midwesterner before, but she does enjoy a good casserole.
Besides books, Mimi likes quilting, gardening, drawing, picking up heavy weights, and pop music. She has four planets in Aquarius. She knows a little bit about a lot of animals, and far too much about cats.
Her website is www.mimiyu.info
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