TRIAL OF THE SUN QUEEN by Nisha J. Tull.
Orbit Books. p/b. £9.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Lor has been imprisoned in Nostraza for 12 years and, after all that time, still has no idea why the Aurora King decided to send her and her siblings there. Her brother, Tristan, manages fine. They call him the Prince of Nostraza, a title which offers him protections that unfortunately do not extend to Lor herself. She has to fight her own battles, gruesome and distasteful as they may be.
She had managed to get hold of a little bit of luxury for herself at great personal cost, but it seems her rival is determined to ruin that for her. Another reason to retaliate. Another prison brawl, but this time one that lands Lor back in the Hollow – a crude, solitary punishment outside what scant protection the prison walls offer from the forest beyond – a punishment she nearly did not return from alive last time. Lor is determined to survive but, as yet, has no idea of exactly where she will find herself when she awakens.
Son of the Aurora King, Nadir, is determined his reign will be very different to his father’s, whenever the time comes. For the time being, still under his father’s command, Nadir is sent to find out why there has been a riot at Nostraza prison and to track down a missing prisoner. When he learns that the prisoner is a young woman with nothing unusual to her story, Nadir begins to wonder why her father is so interested in her whereabouts.
Trial of the Sun Queen tracks Lor’s disorienting relocation from prison to fae kingdom as she is suddenly thrust into fae society and all of its glamour and illusion. From the moment she wakes up, she is swept along by mentor, hair stylist and warder as a contestant in the Sun Queen Trials where, as the Final Tribute, she most likely faces defeat and death. Sound familiar?
What we have here very much feels like The Hunger Games fan fiction meets a lot of popular YA stories along the way to become reframed in a fantasy kingdom where the prize is to marry a very captivating (and controlling) fae king. Set aside some jarringly familiar moments of suffering, heroism and temptation on Lor’s part and you have what is a readable romantic fantasy that sets up just enough intrigue and betrayal ready for the next in the series.