The Girl King by Mimi YuThe Girl King by Mimi Yu

The Girl King

byMimi Yu

Hardcover | January 8, 2019

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"An absolutely fantastic tale of legends, magic and destiny." --Kendare Blake, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Three Dark Crowns series

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.

Mimi Yu was born and raised in rural upstate New York. She is an alumna of VONA/Voices. She received a BA in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA from the New School/Parsons School of Design. She currently resides in Chicagoland with her husband. When she's not writing, she enjoys gardening, quilting, boxing, and fosteri...
Title:The Girl KingFormat:HardcoverDimensions:496 pages, 8.61 × 5.88 × 1.57 inPublished:January 8, 2019Publisher:Bloomsbury USALanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1681198894

ISBN - 13:9781681198897

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from A story that draws on a lot of familiar tropes, which is enjoyable despite some falterings in character and world-building. This book reminded me of a lot of other stories, and it feels like potential, in the way that debuts sometimes do. There's a feeling of almost-there-ness that makes reading a bit frustrating. In terms of plot, this book feels like a return to a classic formula- or, at least, a return for me. I'm not sure if there was a departure, or if I've just been reading other things. The scaffold it's built on is familiar- heir to a kingdom denied what they've always assumed was theirs by right, now in exile, magic which has been all but eliminated by an empire that hunts those gifted with it, the overshadowed younger sibling of the heir with darkness growing in their heart, pretender to the throne with a shadow adviser... And while The Girl King doesn't totally subvert or breathe completely new life into the old story, it at least does a good enough job of treading that path. The main deviation from the traditional recipe I've listed is Lu's gender. In a lot of the stories of this kind that I'm accustomed to (although not all of them) feature a male hero attempting to reclaim his throne. In The Girl King, as the name suggests, Lu is faced with her gender as- if not a barrier, then at least a significant hurdle. While she fully expected to be the heir to her father, the idea of a woman emperor (i.e. a woman playing a role typically only inhabited by men in this world) was not an entirely popular one. "Better him than the Girl King" was a not uncommon reprise throughout the novel. For me this was one of the most interesting parts of the story- the way Lu's cousin, who has taken the throne, feels that, not only is he entitled to it, but that she is not- because of childhood enmity, and because he feels her an unnatural thing, that such ambitions are unnatural in a woman. He at times, seems more obsessed with her lack of right to the throne; than his own right to have it. This insecurity means that even when he could consider himself cemented as emperor; he does not, fixated instead the specter of The Girl King, somehow simultaneously believing her a significant threat to him, and underestimating her in a lot of ways. While the novel ostensibly has both Lu and Min set up as main characters, according to the synopsis, Lu gets more screen-time, as it were, more focus, and more development. Nokhai's story and Lu's intertwine pretty early on, shortly after Lu and Min's stories diverge from each other, the result being that the reader winds up spending a lot more time with Lu and Nokhai than with Min, getting to know them both through their own eyes, and through each other's, as the narration switches between Lu, Nokhai, and Min. This might have contributed to my lack of equal investment in the sisters' stories, although it's also possible that I just don't find Min terribly compelling. I'm still trying to decide if the fact that it felt like she was supposed seem like she was gaining agency and coming into herself, without giving me the feeling that any of that had actually happened was on purpose or not. So it is entirely possible I'll appreciate her story line more as the story continues. The romance between Lu and Nok honestly felt rushed and a bit out of place within the story. I know I'm not very romantic and so possibly a bad judge but just. With so much else going on and also the baggage between them, it just seemed improbable that it would move forward with so little communication having happened? The other deviation from the traditional formula is the world. There was an opportunity to create a world drawing on other influences. I found that on the world-building front, the structure of the world was vague, I had some sense what it looked like, a sense of a few significant events in it's history, and even some of the traditions of the various peoples. Somehow, though, not really a sense of what the world felt like to be in.There was a little more telling than showing, which took me out of the story a bit. So much of this story felt like a sketch of a story. Partly because it does tread the lines of familiar archetypes closely, but also because the characters didn't really resonate with me, and the novel didn't really create a strong sense of place. I enjoyed the action scenes, and I really do think that there's a lot of potential as the story finds its feet. Despite the falterings, I still enjoyed reading it, and plan on picking up the sequel, especially with how it ended. The last 10% or so of the story was by far the strongest for me, and I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next!
Date published: 2019-01-16

Editorial Reviews

"[A] masterful blend of Asian history with a touch of fantasy. . . . Yu crafts a rich tale filled with detailed world-building that draws readers in. This mainly female-led ambitious adventure will appeal to fans of Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi." -School Library Journal, starred review"[W]ith its Asia-inspired worldbuilding, lush descriptions, and a weighty sense of history, this sprawling fantasy is . . . a strong debut." -Publishers Weekly"A fast-paced, seamless fantasy adventure full of action, mysticism, and female empowerment." -Booklist"Recommended for readers who enjoy imperfect characters and complex plots." -Kirkus Reviews"An absolutely fantastic tale of legends, magic and destiny, The Girl King kept the pages turning. The myths are awesome, the heroes are unsinkable, and the antagonists are chock-full of twisted agendas. If you're down with dangerous magic, clans of shapeshifters, and worthy girls who somehow STILL need to prove their worth, then you will love this as much as I did." -Kendare Blake, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Three Dark Crowns series"The Girl King is an intricate, richly crafted fantasy that will draw you in and keep you guessing to the last stunning battle." -Heidi Heilig, author of THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE and THE SHIP BEYOND TIME"Fierce and unforgettable, The Girl King is an epic fantasy of tremendous lyrical power; that rare novel that leaves you breathless, as though your dreams and heart are bigger than your body. There's no greater pleasure than to find a novel that makes you feel more alive--Mimi Yu has that gift of magic." -Marjorie Liu, New York Times bestselling author and Hugo Award winner for MONSTRESS"The Girl King is a delight! Yu draws the reader in to a new and intriguing fantasy world with fascinating characters and deft storytelling. I want the next installment!" -Cindy Pon, author of WANT and SERPENTINE"This action-packed epic fantasy engrossed me from the first page. Lu is a heroine for the ages!" -Julie C. Dao, author of FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS"Everything I want in a high fantasy. Yu draws fluently from history to create an exquisite world, brings it to life with gorgeous and atmospheric prose, and populates it with fascinating characters. . . I can't wait to see what this very talented author does next." -Samantha Shannon, New York Times bestselling author of THE BONE SEASON