Ten years ago, Princess Wilhelmina Korte lost everything when the army of Indigo invaded her home realm of Aecor and killed her family, every other adult living in the palace, and took Aecor for Indigo. She's spent the years since as a member of a ragged band of orphans, all survivors of the massacre, building up their chance to win their country back. Now, that chance has seemingly arrived. They have a plan--a plan that involves Wil impersonating a dead duchess from the kingdom of Liadia, which has been lost to the magical force called wraith, and that is a problem in and of itself. And then there's also the problem that Wil is an animator, a magic-user who can bring objects a semblance of life, in a world where magic is strictly forbidden. And the problem of Black Knife, a vigilante in Indigo's capital who seems to know what Wil and her band are up to. And the problem that her impersonation involves interacting with Prince Tobiah of Liadia, the only other person who really knows what happened that fateful night in Aecor, and the reason for the massacre. It's a mess, but Wil is determined to unravel the strands, win back her kingdom, stop the wraith, and become the queen her people deserve after so many years of hardship.
This book has forgery, girls dressed as boys, princesses disguised as duchesses, monsters, magic, people sneaking around in black masks, mistaken identities, and a really good kissing scene, not to mention good writing. It's first-person, which isn't always up my alley, but Wil is a great narrator. She's not selfish and stupid like so many teenaged narrators often are; she doesn't know everything that's going on, but she uses what knowledge she has to the best of her ability, and she isn't afraid to ask questions or go snooping for info on her own if the answers seem to be misconstrued. The mystery of Black Knife isn't very hard to solve, and I did find myself wondering why Wil didn't see it sooner, but that was my only real point of contention with her. Beyond that, I think her reasoning was sound and her actions sensible for the position she was in.
I don't want to say a ton about this book because I think it can really speak for itself, but I do have one main issue with it, and that is the end. Something happens at the end which, while it might serve to propel the plot of the second book (which is yet to be seen, as the second book isn't out yet) was placed at the end of this volume simply for shock value and to pull at readers' heartstrings. This is a cheap trick to use, and I frown upon it. I think the event still could have occurred--because it does have potential--but that it would have been better suited for the start of the second book than the end of the first. It would be a way to dive straight into the action in King of Mirrors without having to re-hash the dramatic ending of Orphan Queen, which is exactly what's going to happen now. That said, this was still a really strong book overall, and I'm looking forward to reading the next one when it comes out sometime this spring.
4 stars out of 5.