Monday 30 September 2019

Book Review & Author Interview: The Orchid Throne (Forgotten Empires #1) by Jeffe Kennedy (Fantasy)

Title: The Orchid Throne (Forgotten Empires #1)
Author: Jeffe Kennedy
St Martin's Press

Publication Date: 24 September 2019
eBook - EPUB
ARC via NetGalley/Publisher



As Queen of the island kingdom of Calanthe, Euthalia will do anything to keep her people free—and her secrets safe—from the mad tyrant who rules the mainland. Guided by a magic ring of her father’s, Lia plays the political game with the cronies the emperor sends to her island. In her heart, she knows that it’s up to her to save herself from her fate as the emperor’s bride. But in her dreams, she sees a man, one with the power to build a better world—a man whose spirit is as strong, and whose passion is as fierce as her own…


Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, has built an army to overthrow the emperor. But he needs the fabled Abiding Ring to succeed. The ring that Euthalia holds so dear to her heart. When the two banished rulers meet face to face, neither can deny the flames of rebellion that flicker in their eyes—nor the fires of desire that draw them together. But in this broken world of shattered kingdoms, can they ever really trust each other? Can their fiery alliance defeat the shadows of evil that threaten to engulf their hearts and souls? 

For me, The Orchid Throne was a middle-of-the-road read. I was a little bored during the first half, mainly because a) there was a lot of wordiness and not much real action, and b) it all felt so familiar and formulaic. My interest did pick up in the second half as things started to happen, and I found secondary character Ambrose amusing. Two overall problems I had were that I didn't feel the chemistry between Conrí and Lia and that the villainous emperor remained something of a cardboard cutout. We were told about him but got no real sense of him. Granted, that may well improve as we move into book two, but for now he's a bit of a non-entity, which makes it hard to drum up any real fear about him and his wrath. In the end I am giving this three stars. For fans of the genre, it ticks all the trope boxes and will meet expectations. However, I found it predictable. That said, this was a slow starter, so things may well pick up on that score as the series continues. As such, I'd be willing to give book two a try.

Author Jeffe Kennedy very kindly allowed me to ask a few questions as part of this blog tour, and you can read the responses below!

Q1: From whence did the inspiration for The Orchid Throne spring?
I’ve long had an image in my mind of a powerful queen holding vigil, waiting for her enemy to attack her realm. She watches out over the sea, as prepared as she can be, but also knowing that she’s unlikely to win. I also love the images from Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and how Cate Blanchett portrays Queen Elizabeth I. I wanted something of her friendship with Bess, her lady in waiting and also the love affair with Raleigh. Then I added in my fascination with the old tales of Merlin and how he aged backward. Those were the initial images and ideas I put into the pot to stew.

Q2: The Orchid Throne takes place in a world rocked by former conflict. How much of that background do you plan/write out in advance of starting the main story?
I’m not a writer who does a lot of advance work on a story. I discover the world and backstory as I write the characters. That said, I started writing this story in 2016 and a great deal of the former conflict in the world of The Orchid Throne stems from the rise of fascism and totalitarianism in modern politics. I imagined a world where that tide hadn’t been stemmed and worked out a lot of my feelings from there.

Q3: How did you go about establishing the rules for magic use and mythology in The Orchid Throne?
Some of it comes from old stories of Merlin, particularly how Mary Stewart described his magic. The rest comes from the core of old Celtic and Pagan beliefs that the land is alive, and that rulers are connected to their lands. I let it all brew together and assemble it intuitively as I write.

Q4: Do you have a personal favourite character from the book and what makes you love them so much?
I really don’t have a personal favorite. I tend to love my heroines best, because they’re the closest to my own perspective, so I’m very fond of Lia. But truly I have strong connections to all of my characters. I love them for their strength and ability to survive, and also for their wounds.

Q5: Who would be your dream cast members to portray Lia and Conrí in a screen adaptation?
Margot Robbie and Kit Harington

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