How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So Alyssa Cole is just a fantastic writer and there were parts of How to Catch a Queen that were absolutely fabulous, but unfortunately there were also aspects that made it hard to enjoy fully. I did read this in November 2020, so there was a lot going on in the world that influenced how I was consuming and processing stories at the time.
This was definitely the case in my feelings towards Sanyu, the reluctant king of Njaza. I didn’t like the way Sanyu treated Shanti for the first half of the book (very much the result of an extremely sexist upbringing and societal norms, BUT Sanyu hasn’t been completely sheltered. He’s traveled. He’s seen how other people live) and wasn’t impressed with his reluctance to make the positive changes his failing country desperately needs. There are a lot of layers of trauma and manipulation that Sanyu is working through, especially with his head advisor (who also essentially raised him), and I get that, but it wasn’t the time for me to be reading about a man who has the power to make real change but refuses to in an effort to stick to the status quo (this isn’t High School Musical). One other thing that reeaaally ticked me off is a big-time spoiler, so check the bottom of the review if you want to read that.
Now for the good! Shanti was a straight badass. I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to understand her better after A Princess in Theory and why she was so determined to become a queen. I love that she decides to try to make positive change in any way that she can after she realizes she won’t have a voice in the palace. I thought that the interactions between Shanti and Sanyu, once he began showing real respect and affection for Shanti, were fantastic. Also, we’re introduced to Beznaria Chetchevaliere (one of the MC’s of the next book How to Find a Princess) who is GREAT.
Overall How to Catch a Queen was a good read (because I don’t think Alyssa Cole can write a book I don’t like??) but it definitely wasn’t a favorites of hers.
Okay, spoiler time.
So this advisor, right? Musoke. He’s terrible. Like he raises Sanyu with mental and emotional abuse and a whole lot of toxic masculinity. He’s sexist af. He sees no place for women in government or any positions of significance. He undermines Sanyu at every turn and goes behind his back to get his own way. He tries to run off Shanti and belittles her all. the. time. Like this man deserved to be kicked out of the palace completely. And while we get a teeny tiny bit of confrontation between Sanyu and Musoke, we don’t get ANY resolution between Shanti and Musoke. Not even an apology. Then we’re supposed to believe he’s just a slightly annoying grandpa figure for their kids in the epilogue. Spare me. Not every relationship can or should be saved. (I really really hated this man. That’s the spoiler.)
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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