Review: Queen of Athelia

Only a few short months after I had finished her addictive Unfinished Fairy Tales series, Aya Ling released a surprise bonus novella called Queen of Athelia to bring Kat's story to a full close. Even though the book is listed as the fourth in the series, it is actually the fifth, as there was another novella that took place in between the first two books called Princess of Athelia. Like that one, Queen of Athelia takes place entirely in the kingdom of Athelia with no references to goblins or trips back to the modern world that Kat grew up in. As a result, the story is surprisingly realistic, focusing on her responsibilities as a mother and heir to the throne with her husband, Prince Edward. It felt less like a fairy tale than the others did, but Aya Ling included a tongue-in-cheek joke about that in the narrative in which Kat points out that fairy tales always end with the wedding because no one wants to hear about all of the messy non-magical things that happen afterward.


The previous two books in the Unfinished Fairy Tales series contained a messy explanation of Kat's inability to survive in both worlds because people in Athelia don't breathe the same oxygen as we do in the real world. She needed the fairies and goblins to band together and find a spell that would change her lungs so that she could breathe Athelian air. If the bodies of people in Athelia work that differently, it seems a little odd that childbirth and nursing are exactly the same there as they are in the real world. There was also a subplot about a city in the kingdom becoming industrialized and polluting the air, making it harder for its inhabitants to breathe. As crown prince and princess, Kat and Edward tried to find a way to convince the duke of the city to clean up his act for its inhabitants. This subplot particularly seemed to contradict the lack of oxygen in Athelia. This book read almost more like historical fiction than it did fantasy, which would be fine for anyone who didn't read the earlier books in the series, but for those of us who did, it's a little hard to suspend our disbelief.

Most of the book was about how Kat's relationship with her newborn son, Eddie, affected her relationship with her husband, Edward. Aya Ling based Eddie off her own little one, so she had plenty of experience with motherhood to write about it believably. Kat was very insistent on bringing up Eddie herself, even if it meant staying up all night next to his crib while he screamed and cried. Since Kat was a princess, Edward and the other palace servants wanted her to get more nursemaids to take care of Eddie so she could attend more royal events such as balls and parties, but she wanted to bring up her son the same way her mother brought her up as an ordinary person in the real world. This seemed admirable at first until it became clear that she was overworking herself the point where it was negatively impacting her own health, so she and Edward were forced to come to a compromise.

The antagonist of the story was a regal lady named Gwendolyn who had designs on Edward before he married Kat. Even at her worst, Gwendolyn did very little to come between the the fairy tale power couple since they were already married and Kat knew that Edward was completely devoted to her. Therefore, Gwendolyn did not make for a true threat to Kat, and the story did not contain a whole lot of suspense. In fact, Kat never really had any interest in competing for Edward's hand from the moment she accidentally tore an old story book and ended up in Athelia. It was always Edward who would fight tooth and nail to win over Kat's favor because he admired her intellect and modern feminist ways. Even though Gwendolyn was a match for Kat in those areas, she lacked her compassion, making Kat the more worthy candidate.

I do not think that Queen of Athelia was a necessary addition to the Unfinished Fairy Tales series, as Ever After wrapped up the story perfectly. However, the book did come as a nice surprise when I thought the series was already over, and it was fun to be able to jump back into Kat's world and learn what happened to her after happily ever after. The book serves as a reminder that fairy tale worlds aren't really all that different from reality. Sure, it would be nice to have magic, but when it comes right down to it, all anyone ever wants is to be loved and have a close family, which can mean different things for different people. I would only recommend this book to people who completed the rest of the series and were so engrossed by Kat's life that they didn't want the adventure to end.

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