I was really excited to read The Girl King so I’m really sad that it was a bit of a flop for me. I loved the ending but the rest of the book just didn’t really do it for me due to slow pacing & not enough world-building.
⚠️ Violence, gory sword fights, murder, animal slaughter, parental death/murder, hunting, genocide of a fictional community, imprisonments in labour camps, discussions of infertility & panic attacks (secondary character) ⚠️
Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead – a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.
Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally – and an army – if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved . . .
Alone in the volatile court, Min’s hidden power awakens – a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign . . . or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.
When I started The Girl King I was really excited – Lu seemed super fun, strong & intelligent, & her decisions at the start of the book definitely took me by surprise; on the other hand, I felt sadness for Min & I was excited to see how her character would develop, especially as the synopsis implied that the sisters would eventually challenge one another. I liked Nokhai from the very beginning as well – it’s unusual for me to have a male character as my favourite but in this case Nok was the one who stole my heart & I was really interested in where his part of the story would go.
Throughout most of the book I felt quite mixed about whether I was enjoying it; I didn’t find the events in the story predictable, however I was right in thinking that the end of the book would blow up & that it would be the best part of the story. Unfortunately, the majority of the read felt quite slow, but not in a slow-burn kind of way, instead it felt like a 300 page story had been stretched into 488 pages & so it just draaaaagged on for what felt like forever. This is a medium sized book but it took me 5 days to read it because I never got hooked to the plot; if it had been shorter, & the key events had been closer together, it may have been different.
It’s not that Mimi Yu isn’t a good writer, she absolutely is, it’s more that I don’t think the book was edited very well, because it went on for too long & I didn’t get enough world-building. It got to the stage where I was half way through but it didn’t feel like much had happened, despite how long it took me to get there. I did like the concept of the story, especially of The Inbetween, but I wish more of the book had been set there & with the Yunians because they were the most interesting part. I would have also been interested to learn more about the labour camps & about Nokhai’s experiences – if we’d had another point of view in there, maybe set in The Inbetween or the camps, it would have given the story more substance.
As I expected, The Girl King finally became exciting & then it ended. I guessed the book was probably going to end with a big fight, however Mimi Yu did manage to surprise me with some of what went down during the climactic event. I just wish the whole book had been written at the same standard as the ending. I may read book two, I may not. It depends on whether I’ve lost interest by the time March comes along.
If you like slow books & series that start with a steady paced introduction as the first book, then The Girl King could definitely be more for you than it was for me. If you like sibling rivalry & books that spend a lot of time following the characters as they travel, then you should definitely give this book a try! As I said, Mimi Yu is a good writer, the pace of the story just didn’t work for me this time.
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