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Posted August 23, 2013
Reviewed by Lee Ashford for Readers' Favorite
The Secret Queen by Mark Miller is Book III in The Empyrical Tales series. It follows The Fourth Queen, Book I, and The Lost Queen, Book II. Coming soon is The First Queen, Book IV. While it would probably make more sense to read the books in order, I found The Secret Queen to stand alone quite well. There were a few names and incidents mentioned that meant nothing to me, but they did not detract from the flow of the very engaging story.
In The Secret Queen, seven-year-old Olena was the acknowledged Queen of the Eastern Sky, but had already spent an entire year in training under the three other Queens of the domain. Despite her young age, Olena was faced with incredibly challenging situations that required her to make right choices for the benefit of the land. She had learned scarcely any magic, and even the magic she could do was unreliable. Regardless, she was called upon to undergo a quest that took her deep into hostile territory. Not only did she face hostile people, but the terrain itself was almost insurmountable. With the help of Sylvan, a living wooden doll, and Kez, a fuzzy quzzak, Olena managed to do a lot of growing up while on her quest.
Mark Miller has created a vividly detailed world, filled with equally detailed creatures, all of which bring this story to life. I was captivated by this remarkable fantasy, and literally had to read it cover to cover in one sitting, because there was no point at which I was comfortable putting down the book until later. Miller has a lot of whatever it is that makes a good fantasy writer. Genius, perhaps? Fathomless imagination? Tremendous drive? Whatever the secret is to writing great fantasy, The Secret Queen is the result. I most definitely recommend this series to fans of fantasy, and to anybody who is just curious to find out what good fantasy is all about.
Posted June 1, 2012
The third installment in the Empyrical Tales, this book has the same sense of wonder that the previous ones do. Although the main character is a girl, this book, this entire series is a great read for adults as well.
The story begins where we left off, with Olena learning how to rule her kingdom, how to get her magic to do as she wants. We get a sense, however, of her restlessness in her situation, which leads her to seek out an adventure of her own. We get to meet three new and fascinating characters who are trapped in a ring, and who teach Olena some important rules not only for ruling her kingdom wisely, but for living a happy life. The many challenges that the young queen endures add a level of tension to the novel, especially since the reader doesn’t know yet if the three characters who are guiding her are completely trustworthy.
What is best about this series is that it adds a strong heroine to children’s literature. Olena does not sit around waiting for others to rescue her. She actively pursues her own destiny. This is not something we see that often these days in literature.
As will all the books in the series, the lushness of the descriptions, be it of landscapes or characters, paints a wonderful picture for the reader, letting us discover new aspects of Miller’s world along with Olena.
The plot is, in my opinion, the best of the three books. The action starts quickly and keeps up throughout the entire book, so we never feel bored. The strange characters, including a turbaned creature who doesn’t speak, add mystery and might even send a chill down the reader’s back.
This is a wonderful addition to the Empyrean tales, and I can highly recommend it to those of you looking for a little magic in your reading lives.