Wednesday 15 March 2023

Contest Of Queens by Jordan H. Bartlett

Book Details:

​Book Title:  Contest of Queens (The Frean Chronicles #1) by Jordan H. Bartlett
Category:  YA Fiction (Ages 13-17),  464 pages
GenreYA Fantasy 
Publisher:  CamCat Books 
Release date:  Jan 2022
Content Rating: PG. Very clean, but there is some brief violence.
Book Description:

In a Queendom divided, can one girl unite the realms?

Jacs, an inventor’s apprentice from the Lower Realm, has only ever dreamed of what the land among the clouds holds. That is until she finds a letter from Connor, an Upperite boy hoping to learn more about the land below. Little does Jacs know, Connor is actually Prince Cornelius of the Queendom of Frea. With wooden boats and hot air balloons, the two begin a secret correspondence. But their friendship is divided by a heavily-guarded bridge and an inescapable prejudice.

The strength of their bond was thought to transcend distance and time, but when the royal family visits the Lower Realm, the Queendom’s feud is reignited.

​To save her people, Jacs must infiltrate the Upper Realm and earn her place to compete in the Contest of Queens. In a story about friendship, love, bravery, and defying gravity, Jacs will strive to prove that a Queendom is strongest when united.

My Review
I was drawn to read Contest Of Queens by its beautiful 'stained glass' cover design. I loved how eyecatching this is and I felt it set Jordan Bartlett's first Frean novel apart from other series in the YA fantasy genre. Although, and let's be honest here, as a reader who is a few decades past the young adult catchment, I wasn't expecting to so swiftly become caught up in Jacs and Connor's story. All credit to Bartlett for not only writing a cracking tale, but also for so deftly incorporating social commentary aspects such as the reverse sexism which ultimately defines this fantasy world. In her Afterword, Bartlett talks about her disappointment in more traditional fantasy authors who, when attempting to create a whole new world from scratch, still maintained their own societies' sexist and/or racist norms. By turning this on its head in Frea, yet keeping other concepts such as a feudal hierarchy, Bartlett so clearly illustrates the ludicrousy of a solely gender-based society.

I was impressed with Bartlett's portrayal of such a physically divided queendom too, especially how she shows that keeping people apart is the easiest way to foster hatred between them. In Frea, the Upperites and Lowrians are separated by geology - a sheer cliff face - and all bar one of the bridges that used to allow interactions were destroyed long ago. Now access is strictly controlled and manipulated, resulting in extreme suspicions and antagonism from both sides. I can see this same attitude of divide and truth twist clearly reflected in the political 'leadership' of my own country right now, which made Bartlett's Frea all the more real in my mind.

I loved Jacs as a character and enjoyed spending time with her. Her curiosity and ability to instinctively think around a problem makes her the perfect protagonist in this story, yet she is not infallible and I could empathise with her emotional responses to her mistakes. All the characters, even those we only briefly meet, felt plausibly real to me. While Contest Of Queens is the first novel in the Frean Chronicles series, I was pleased that it felt like a fully contained story in its own right. I don't like abrupt cliffhangers! That said though, I am keen to read on into the next book in this series, Queen's Catacombs, which I am delighted is already waiting for me to open!

Meet the Author:

Jordan H. Bartlett is a New Zealand-born Canadian with a love for children’s literature and female empowerment. She grew up reading books about boys for boys and found it hard to find a strong female heroine she could relate to. Bartlett wrote Contest of Queens to give young readers that character she so longed for in a world where gender norms are reversed. Bartlett currently resides in Banff, Alberta where she works as a Speech Language Pathologist and is a certified yoga instructor.

connect with the author: website facebook instagram ~ goodreads

Enter the Giveaway:
Win a signed hardcover copy of QUEEN’S CATACOMBS (3 winners) (USA only) (ends Apr 17)

CONTEST OF QUEENS Book Tour Giveaway

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