Monday, July 17, 2017

The Queen of All that Dies by Laura Thalassa

In the future, the world is at war. 

For the last decade, King Lazuli of the Eastern Empire has systematically taken over the world. No one knows much about him other than a series of impossible facts: he cannot die, he has not aged since the conflict began, and he wants to rule the world.

All Serenity Freeman has known is bloodshed. War has taken away her mother, her home, her safety. As the future emissary of the Western United Nations, the last autonomous region of the globe, she is responsible for forging alliances where she can. 

Surrender is on the horizon. The king can taste it; Serenity feels it deep within her bones. There is no other option. Now the two must come face to face. For Serenity, that means confronting the man who’s taken everything from her. For the king, it means meeting the one woman he can’t conquer. But when they meet, something happens. Cruelty finds redemption. 

Only in war, everything comes with a price. Especially love.

RATING: ★☆☆☆


Welcome! Enemies To Lovers is a segment of my blog where I focus on reviewing books that fall into this trope (as it is one of my favorite ones). The books can range from Fantasy to Contemporary and all they have in common is that the romance featured there is between two people who start out as enemies. Recommendations are more than welcome!

"I thought all women liked getting pampered?"
I narrow my eyes at him. "Do I look like the kind of woman who enjoys that?"


It’s been a long time since I’ve written a review so my apologies if I’m a little rusty. Also, thanks to Minni for giving me such a cool list of books to try!

Enemies-to-lovers, if done well, can be one of my favorite tropes in a book. There’s something I love when a couple starts by knowing the worst about each other, they slowly begin to talk and realize they’re not so different, start a friendship and then (after a strongly consolidated friendship) move on to something else. That's why I wanted to start a segment on my blog where I dedicate to review books focused on tropes, and what better way to start with than with one of my faves? However, I’m well aware that, as it happens with any trope, when used poorly it can be god-awful.

I’m saddened to say that this is what happened with The Queen of All that Dies. Despite my hopes the trope was handled poorly. Add lousy characterization, no world-building and severe inconsistency, and you have one infuriating and confusing novel.

Let’s start with the basics; the world is at war (go figure). Some evil immortal King has taken over most of the world and kills anybody that opposes him. He’s poisoned the land with atomic bombs (that somehow only kill very few people?) and basically submerged everybody into chaos.

Our protagonist’s name is Serenity Freeman, probably a second cousin to America Singer based on their name and level of intelligence, and she’s at nineteen an ambassador to the entire western hemisphere alongside her dad.

I’ll say it right now, I have absolutely no idea of what the world is like aside from “bad”. Serenity speaks about representing the entire western hemisphere but apparently they lost contact with Latin America a long time ago due to atomic bombs causing the downfall of communication, particularly internet (although somehow it’s later explained that everybody has access to internet and that the rebels use it to try and bring and King down… I don’t know).

It is in situations like this, when presented with post-apocalyptic worlds that I often ask myself:

Where the hell am I??

I mean, for all I know all of the action is happening in the US. What about Argentina? Am I alive? Is Latin America at war too? Am I just eating popcorn and watching as the gringos die on TV?? Who knows? Certainly not Serenity.

As far as the book tells us, the entire western hemisphere consist on the people living in the bunker Serenity shares with her father, so… like a hundred people are all that’s left? How can she give away the entire hemisphere to the King when she only represents the US?? IF she even represents that much.

The enemy here is King Montes Lazuli (which I pictured as Monty Burns, sorry not sorry). All we are told is that the King is an asshole who wants to own the world because of… reasons and Serenity and her father are sent to try and negotiate a treaty; their hemisphere will surrender to the King bringing an end to the war. This, however, is all a hoax. Serenity explains how the king is a ruthless bastard, and the reason they hadn’t gave up before despite their lacks of resources is because what Montes does to his territories is even worse than what he does to his enemies. Later on in the story this is re-written and Serenity tells us how everything is good and wonderful in the King’s hemisphere and she can’t wait to help her people… I think it was a matter of edit, there are many contradictions in the novel.

>>The rape masquerading as romance:

Guys I’m going to be honest with you. If you read that summary and expect to find some steamy romance you’ll be disappointed. What you will find is a sixty year-old stuck-up homicidal creep preying on a nineteen year-old girl who, after hating him for 98% of the novel (and rightfully so), suddenly decides she is starting to love him for some unknown reason and without any indication on how or why it happens.

You see, the western hemisphere (aka a handful of people) wanted to send Serenity in the hopes that she would “seduce” or distract the King (it’s unclear what they expected from a nineteen year-old girl to do with an immortal guy who didn’t have any morals but, book logic). The minute the King sees her he knows that she’s “not like the other women he knows” because she’s brutal and savage and whatnot (she’s not). 

“The world doesn’t stop moving, the room doesn’t go quiet, but I swear something inside me just broke and reformed the moment she turned her devilish eyes on me-and that’s the only way to describe those eyes of hers. Devilish. She’s a wicked soul through and through.”

So, because the guy is a creep and the story just needed there to be romance, the King decides that he has to “have her” and that’s when the story starts going from clichéd-but-popcorn-entertaining to all shades of creepiness.

The people Serenity works for want her to use the interest the King has in her to their advantage and get a better treaty, one that would include healthcare and investments for the hemisphere so they could begin to improve their economy after thirty years of war. Serenity is clearly NOT PLEASED because the King is freaking creep who is obsessed with her, constantly touches her without her consent and, oh yeah he’s killed literally MILLIONS of people because he wanted power.

The thing about the King is that he’s not a tortured hero, or someone who does the wrong things for the right reasons or anything resembling a compelling anti-hero like the novel requires, no. The King is a freaking pedophile rapist who wants power because… he likes power, I guess. And for some unknown reason he decides he wants Serenity and nothing will stop him, not even the fact that Serenity hates him.

”You can’t have me Montes! Not ever!”
“My King,” a voice near me says, “should we administer the sedative?”
“I will never forgive you!” I shriek. “You hear me? Never!”
“I think that would be best.” The King’s voice glides over me like the smoothest silk. He’s not even listening.

After her father realizes the King wants to exchange a peace treaty for his daughter, the two of them try to escape the palace only for Serenity’s dad to be shot right in front of her as the King’s guards tried to take her back to him. She escapes, gives a speech ala Katniss that’s really rushed and out of place, and after being in bed for days after seeing her father brutally murdered in front of her eyes, she learns that her hemisphere made an agreement with the King in which they’ll give him Serenity in exchange for a better treaty.

So now Serenity has to go and marry the monster that killed her father as well as half of the world.

I stare at the general for a moment, not allowing myself to comprehend his words. And then they sink in. Bile rises up to my throat, and I barely have time to grab a nearby trashcan before I retch.

Needless to say the King is a freaking asshole. When Serenity has to see Marco again, the bodyguard that killed her father, she’s angry that the guy can walk away unscathed when her father died. But the King gets all touchy and says that it was all her father’s fault because he wouldn’t let his daughter by raped by the King, so if he hadn’t tried to protect her (and Serenity hadn’t escaped) then nothing would have happened.
In fact, he even goes on to shame her for killing the bodyguards that tried to capture her to send her to the King… after which Serenity agrees that he’s right and they are both twisted souls who understand each other… or something.

”That’s it? He kills my father and he goes unpunished?”
“Watch your words.” Now the King turns to face me, and his eyes flash. “You and your men killed and injured some of my best men, and you got a peace treaty and a promotion out of it.”

Yeap, it gets worse. After they marry (against their will, please remember that everything that happens so far is ALL against Serenity’s will), the King makes it clear that they’ll have sex even though she is disgusted by the mere thought of it. He then takes off her clothes and forces himself on her.

My movements are jerky and automated. I kiss the king, but I’m not really present. My skin crawls as his lips caress mine.[…]

“Still a virgin?” he asks.
“That’s none of your business.”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he says, “which means it’s my job to make sure you enjoy yourself tonight.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“We’ll see what you say after all is said and done.”[…]

It’s so wrong it makes my skin crawl. A stray tear streaks down my cheek.
“I hate you,” I say to him.
“You won’t always feel that way,” he says, thrusting into me.
“I will. I swear it.”
“Give it up,” he growls, pushing into me harder. “The war is over.”
“Not for me. It won’t even be over for me.”

Look at that. WOULD YOU FUCKING LOOK AT THAT?? You can’t read that and tell me it’s romance, it’s freaking rape, that’s what it is. From that moment onwards Serenity feels like a traitor because her body reacts to the King. At some point, and don’t ask me how or why because CREEPY BOOK LOGIC Serenity decides she’s falling in love with the King and wants to protect him, putting her life at risk many times to do so.

The situation never improves, and I mean NEVER. It’s not like the guy has a change of heart and starts treating her right (which wouldn’t change a damn thing). Nope, their entire interactions consist of Serenity wanting to do something, the King not letting her so he threatens her and has his bodyguards drag her to her room and lock her up while she screams, kicks and threatens to kill someone.

That’s basically the entire “romance.”

>>The clichés, because what’s a novel without them?

The novel relies heavily on all sorts of clichés, but I honestly would have been ok with that if the rest of the book had at least been entertaining. Unfortunately, it’s not and so every time a new cliché would appear I just had to roll my eyes and sigh.

Let’s see a compendium of said tropes:

-Fate of the entire world relies on an untrained, unqualified and bratty teenage girl.
-The girl, of course, never sees herself as attractive. She’s tall, beautiful, blond, skinny because of radiation poisoning but somehow toned… so, basically a supermodel.
-Girl DOES NOT like clothes, makeup or anything girly. She’s a badass after all!!!!!!1!!!
-Childhood best friend is in love with her and she learns about it when she has to marry the evil guy.
-Dead parents.
-Nonsensical world-building.

>>The ending:

I don’t want to get into any sort of spoilers so I’ll be brief, but to me there was a severe issue with editing/writing and that really showed at the end.

As you read you’ll find a handful of inconsistency here and there (seriously, how can the world be fine with so many freaking atomic bombs being detonated ALL THE TIME?) but as we reach to the end there were a lot of things changed without warning to make the story work, such as the King’s conquered lands thriving under his rule when at the beginning of the book we were told that the surrendered lands were doing worse than the rebellious hemisphere.

Besides that, after Serenity marries him she still plans to end his life but when the opportunity arrives thanks to a rebel group, she’s actually SHOOK that people would think she wanted to kill him?? Serenity makes the rebels seem like terrorist because they want to end King Lazuli’s reign now that there’s finally world peace… but is she forgetting that the guy is a dictator that is basically leaving the entire world to die? I honestly don’t know where she got the idea that being submitted to a tyrannical and murderous dictator is conducive to long-lasting peace.

To sum up, The Queen of All that Dies had an interesting premise, but the lack of consistency in writing, the dumb character decisions and overall disturbing “romance” made this not a very enjoyable read, and I wouldn’t say it used the Enemies to Lovers trope well. It was just a creepy pedophile preying on a teenage girl.

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