A perfectly serviceable action-fantasy that gives new life to a classic short story. Predictable and thin. Three stars.
“From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”
In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.
But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.”
The synopsis promises fast-paced action in a sand-swept fantasy setting, and it delivers on those counts. If you came for arena fights, plot twists, and romance, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Sullivan is at her best writing moments of high energy and intensity, like fight scenes or turning points of discovery, and there were some interesting elements to the mythical kingdom she created.
That said, this book was not for me.
This is certainly due in part to how much YA I read. There have been so many recent titles with badass princesses in gritty fantasy kingdoms, and it’s hard to see what makes Tiger Queen noteworthy.
Even if I hadn’t read much in the genre, though, I expect I would still have found the characters thin and the story predictable. The whole thing is just too flimsy for me.
Tiger Queen is inspired by Frank R. Stockton’s 1882 classic short story, “The Lady or the Tiger.” You can read the story here, but be prepared for some old-timey orientalist racism.
Sullivan does a great job transforming the short story into something original and fleshed-out while still staying true to the central tension of the source material. I love what she did with it, but I wonder if Tiger Queen might have been better served sticking to the short format. I think it would have made a sharp, snappy novella or short story.
Tiger Queen releases from Blink this September.
Pre-order your copy here.
I received a free eARC of this title from the publisher via Netgalley for review.
All opinions my own.
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