Hey, writers and readers!
It’s been a while, but I’ve got a great indie novel to share with you today. Here, I’m reviewing Queen of Extinction, a Sleeping Beauty retelling by Gwynn White and Erin St. Pierre.
This probably isn’t the last you’ll see of White’s work on Wit & Travesty, as this novel is just the beginning of what is sure to be an interesting trilogy. Check out the review below and make sure to give your two cents in the comments section if you’ve already read the book, too!
Rating: 4 stars
Princess Aurora—through no fault of her own—was born Infirm among a court of Able people. Despite her physical limitations, she’s known for her quick wit and skills with plants and potions. None of her wits come to her rescue when her brother is murdered and she is next in line to rule Ryferia.
She knows what must come next: she must be married within a month, or her cruel uncle gets to take the throne as his own, and she knows he will show no empathy for the Infirm. Despite the jeering of the Able, Aurora plans the most elaborate set of deadly marriage trials to allow eligible princes to fight for her hand.
Several princes jump at the opportunity to take the kingdom and Aurora’s—despite her looks. Aurora, however, hopes to find someone willing to marry her for love. Out of the group, two noble men stand out as being extra gifted, extra cunning, and extra handsome.
Little does Aurora know that magical societies are battling under the surface to unleash magic back where it belongs—and take power for themselves. It’s up to Aurora to determine who really has her best interests at heart, and it’s up to her allies to ensure she lives to do so.
What I Enjoyed:
Even though I’m not a fan of the “ugly duckling” protagonist (more on that later), I was overall happy with Aurora’s character. She’s touted as infirm and unsightly, but she gets lots of opportunities to tell people off and has some great one-liners. She’s got great skills and is no wise ashamed of them. This goes against a lot of tropes I hate where the main character can’t do anything and has below average self-esteem. Aurora is someone the reader can look up to.
I also liked the world building that is consistent and fascinating throughout the novel. You’ve got the Infirm versus the Able—and no one can tell for sure why the Infirm are the way they are. About halfway through the novel, you discover that there is a lot more it, and you anticipate the moment Aurora is caught up and starts to plot how to help both sides without being bitter towards the Able who have treated her cruelly her whole life.
What I Didn’t Enjoy:
So a major theme throughout the novel is how ugly Aurora is. You can’t tell from the cover, but she has unruly red hair, lots of freckles, and a thin/sickly frame. She’s part of the Infirm class even though she’s the princess. And I guess it was really off-putting to see the major emphasis on her bad looks throughout the book. I understand the other characters find the hair and freckles unsightly, but it was kind of overkill for me, especially how the antagonists often call her the “ugly bitch.”
I could tell this idea was meant to be a stark contrast to how the good characters focus on her good qualities and don’t find her completely hideous—or they know she is fit for greatness no matter what people think of her looks. This was a point make really clear at the beginning and just wouldn’t die throughout the novel.
Another major issue I had was the fact this novel was touted as a Sleeping Beauty retelling. Besides the protagonist called Aurora, a dragon character, and mention of Maleficent as deity, this novel doesn’t follow the standard storyline you’d expect from a Sleepy Beauty retelling—no sleeping curse, for example.
I’m trying not to let it bug me too much because this novel is one of a trilogy, so perhaps the nods to the fairy tale are expertly sprinkled throughout the novel. Still, because I was expecting a retelling, it threw me off. My advice is to read this novel and pretend like I didn’t tell you this was a retelling and judge it by its own merits.
My Final Thoughts
This novel boasts elements of fantasy, fairy tale, steampunk, romance, and magic—and I’d say that’s true. You’ll find a little bit of everything in this novel, which is why I gave it four stars despite some tropes I’m not a fan of. Overall, the characters are enjoyable, the plot moves at a great pace, and the story takes you on a couple of plot twists—what more could you want?
So that’s my take on the novel—want to give it a read yourself? You can snag your copy of Queen of Extinction through the following links:
If you’d like to learn more about Gwynn White and her other novels, you can catch up with her via social media:
To learn more about Erin St Pierre, you can find her on social media, too: