Incarnate was interesting, but I wasn’t entirely sure if it was my thing. After The Orphan Queen, I’m very much tempted to go back and try Meadows’ debut series again, because this book was so much fun. Then again, take a fantasy and add a kick butt heroine, balls, and some banter, and Christina’s generally going to be a happy camper. I thought I would like The Orphan Queen (that’s why I requested it), but I didn’t expect to like it this much.
Wilhelmina is awesome. She’s strong physically, thanks to years of training; you want her by your side if you’re battling glowmen. Wil’s also intelligent, incredibly caring, brave, and able to use magic to manipulate objects. Thankfully, Wil has flaws too, like the fact that she’s not much of a leader, even though she’s the orphaned queen of Aecor, which was taken over by the neighboring Indigo Kingdom. For all her intelligence, there also times when Wil goes on pure instinct, which can be a good or bad thing. Unlike most YA heroines, she also completely fails to notice eyes, and thus is unable to recognize a certain someone.
The Ospreys are the surviving royal orphans of Aecor, and they’re hiding out, waiting for their chance to reclaim their homeland. The queen would be the obvious choice to lead the group, but that lot falls to Patrick Lien, son of Aecor’s General. The power dynamics between Patrick and Wil were one of my favorite aspects of The Orphan Queen. They essentially represent two different philosophies of ruling, and I think it will be interesting to see what they believe by the end of the series. The little Ospreys don’t serve too much of a point in the series so far, other than allowing for some convenient infodumping as they need to be trained.
Hitting another favorite trope, Wilhelmina goes undercover as a survivor of the kingdom of Liadia, which was destroyed by Wraith (some icky evil stuff magic turns into – this is very hard to explain well, but I swear it makes sense when Jodi Meadows tells it). Throughout the course of the book, she also genderbends to go snooping around and it’s great. Undercover at the palace, she gets to go to balls and flirt with cute boys (heyyyyy James).
Meanwhile, at night, while she’s sneaking around the city planning how to reclaim her Queendom, she’s fighting and then flirting with Black Knife, this sexy young vigilante. YES PLEASE. They do excellent banter and also don’t always know if they want to kiss or kill each other. THIS WAY TO SHIP. Of course, later, there’s his identity, which I thought was predictable but still really interesting.
The world building really impressed me, since I’m a huge sucker for magic. I love the concept of the tangible wraith and it’s curious connection to magic. I’m looking forward to learning more about it in the later books. I will admit that I don’t really care that much about whether Wilhelmina gets Aecor back, but I super want to know about how the wraith will be resolved.
There were a couple of things that I found vaguely disquieting, and they’re all I can put my fingers on for what left me wanting. First, there’s this one really random scene where Undercover Wil is called to breakfast with King Terrell, and he sort of infodumps random things at her and sends her on her way. Why on earth would a king ever do this? Second and way more importantly, I’m currently not loving the development of the other female characters in the story. This is one of those cases where the other girls and women don’t seem to shine so that Wil can stand out more. I’d love to see more female characters standing out.
Cliffhanger alert, guys! Book two totally comes out the day after book one, right? No? CURSES. I NEEDS THE PRECIOUS. The Orphan Queen has some flaws, but also I loved it and desperately want more. Make of that what you will.