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The Trouble with Kings

by Sherwood Smith

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1579140,600 (3.76)1
Princess Flian finds herself the unwilling object of desire of three royals. Is the one she wants a villain or a hero? Waking up in a strange place, Flian Elandersi at first doesn t know who she is. One wicked prince tells her she is secretly engaged to an even more wicked king who wants to marry her right away. But before that happens, yet another wicked prince crashes through a window on horseback to sweep her off her feet. Memory returns, and Flian realizes that all any of them seem to want is her considerable wealth, not her pleasant-but-ordinary self. She longs to escape the barracks-like, military atmosphere and return to civilization and her musical studies. Flian endures another abduction, this time in the middle of a poetry reading. Who is the villain? Prince Garian Herlester languid, elegant, sarcastic? Prince Jaim he of the dashing horsemanship? Or King Jason Szinzar, whose ambiguous warning might be a threat? Flian decides it s time to throw off civilization and take action. The problem with action is that duels of wit turn into duels of steel and love can t be grabbed and galloped away.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This is set earlier than the Sacheria duology, although in a different part of the world - the continent of Gorael as opposed to the continent of Sartor. It deals with much the same themes, although less swashbuckling, and is another YA novel.

Princess Flian Elandersi of Lygiera wakes with no memory of who she is nor where she is. It seems she has had an accident while the guest of King Garian Herlester of Drath who is arranging a marriage for her to King Jason Szinzar of Ralanor Veleth. She is ‘rescued’ by King Jason’s younger brother and sister, Jaim and Jewel, and recovering her memory, returns to Lygiera accompanied by Jewel. Here she starts taking more of an interest in court affairs, and is kidnapped by King Garian’s minions and rekidnapped by King Jason. Yes, complicated, as initially Jason comes across as a villain but in fact it’s Garian.

Another romp, this time dealing with growing up and finding your place in life.

Recommended.
  Maddz | Sep 10, 2018 |
This was a bit different than I expected. At times it kept going and going when I expected it to end and there were loose ends but when it was done, I felt like I had read a historical fiction set in a slightly magical world- and I liked it. I especially liked how there were quite a few surprises, even going into it knowing from the synopsis that the love interest wasn't who you were going to expect. ( )
  wrightja2000 | Sep 6, 2018 |
Flian is rich and a princess, but she takes no pleasure in the sycophants or court politics she's known all her life. Being kidnapped by three royals in short succession (the sarcastic Garion, the dour Jason, and the swashbuckling Jaim) shakes up her staid routine. She begins to rethink her life, and how she wants to spend it. Annoyed at the numerous kidnappings, Flian takes up self-defense lessons (but in a twist on the trope, she doesn't become a super-ninja, but instead just slightly more competent and confident). She realizes that she's letting others lead the Court, and that if she wants it to be a more friendly, interesting place, she has to take charge and do it herself. In one of her escape attempts, Flian spends time as a maid, and starts thinking about her own servants. She was never cruel, but never exactly inviting, either, and she seeks to change that. (Amusingly, this works well in some instances but not in all--when she tries to have a more intimate conversation with her life-long ladies maid, the woman is clearly discomfited and uncomfortable.) She has long conversations with her brother, who rules their country, about what it means to be a good and just ruler. Meanwhile, Flian begins to realize that at least one of her kidnappers is a better man than she'd thought...

One thing I love about Sherwood Smith is that she always plays with the expectations and assumptions of the genre. Most fantasy is written in a pseudo-medieval Western Europe where society is patriarchal and queer and non-white people don't exist (or, as in the case of CS Lewis, are only present in order to be a villanous contrast). Reading stories set in a slightly fantastical version of the dominant culture and paradigm is fun! But it does get old, especially when "realism" is used as an excuse for why the author didn't bother to do much in the way of world-building. If readers can accept dragons and wizards without disbelief, surely we can deal with the occassional non-patriarchal, non-heterosexist society? Is it really so unbelievable that not all cultures are based in the same assumptions as ours is? Sherwood Smith uses the magical background of her stories (for magic itself is only rarely mentioned, but is used constantly in a thousand quiet, housekeeping-type ways) to create societies without hang-ups about polyamory, heterosexism or homophobia, sexism, or racism. Smith doesn't preach, she just creates societies in which the most beautiful woman in the world has brown skin, women are rulers and jailors and housemaids, in which a queen's female lover helps run the country and the most jock-like man at court is the one to capture the eye of a handsome visiting prince. It's all so casually accepted that it feels beleivable. Her work is unpretentious proof that medievalish fantasy world doesn't have to have sexism to be realistic.

Which is not to say that this is a great novel. The world is great, the characters belieable and relatable, and the dialog natural. There are lots of friendships that never turn romantic, but have their ups and downs nevertheless. There are fight scenes and strategy, internecine court politics and off-handed talk about countries left under centuries of enchanted isolation. But though the fantasy is good, the romance is not. I rooted for the couple to get together, but the periodic insertion of romance novel tropes felt unnatural and forced. Also, the names feel off: Flian and Maxl don't trip off the tongue, but at least they're better than "King Jason" or (worst of all) "Princess Jewel". That aside, I really liked this book, and am feeling disheartened at the fact that it's over and I have to read something else. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Flian Elandersi is a wealthy princess often courted for her money. She falls off of a horse and loses her memory giving the malicious Garian Herlester the perfect opportunity to convince her that she was about to marry his friend Jason Szinzar, the king of a neighboring monarchy in need of money. On the eve of the “wedding” Flian is kidnapped by Jason’s younger brother Jaim. Jaim is the leader of a group of bandits who steal from Jason’s strong holds as revenge for the treatment Jaim endured under Jason when he was young. While staying with Jaim, Flian meets the third Szinzar sibling named Jewel. The girls become immediate friends even though they are polar opposites in both appearance and personality.

Flian’s memory soon returns and she realizes that she must escape from the bandits’ camp. She and Jewel embark on a journey to Flian’s house but are not there for long before Jason reappears.

The Trouble with Kings is one of my top five favorite books. The time period is not an exact era because it is a fantasy but it has a medieval undertone because of the patriarchal governments, wardrobes, and technology even though magic is included. This is one of my favorite time periods to read about because it is so different from today’s society.
Instead of a high school scenario, the characters attend court where the vicious Gillian Zarda and her power-seeking father are introduced along with Flian’s older brother Maxl.
Characters can truly captivate a reader and the characters in this story are no exception. Each individual is so unique which makes the book enjoyable. In addition, almost every character has an opposite in attempt to further characterization. For example, while Jewel is depicted as a free spirit who is comfortable in any social situation, Flian is conservative and often described as awkward and solitary.

Jason is the book’s most complex and equivocal character. Although the author continuously describes him as ‘sardonic’ and having ‘as much emotion as a rock’ it is clear that he has many more unseen personalities making his is actions an intriguing part of the story. Jason is the reason that sardonic is my favorite word.
Flian is an entertaining protagonist. While in her own home she is often reserved, when she is placed in dangerous situations her sharp tongue and determination protect her. Having such a strong main character intensifies the book to an even greater extent.
The ending of the book was slightly predictable to the vigilant reader but it may have been a pleasing surprise to many. Using a masquerade ball to bring characters together set the curious mood of the story.

An adventurous fantasy with a strong female leader such as Flian and a mysterious family such as the Szinzars is my favorite type of story. Although the diction was slightly repetitive and wordy, the story’s creativity will exceed even a harsh critic’s expectations. ( )
1 vote Sommmmer | Nov 4, 2012 |
I liked this book but I didn't love it. Sherwood Smith reminds me of Eva Ibotson in a way. Her characters usually score better than the story by the end. They even scored low with love interests for the same reason. Not this book which did well with the romance but Coronets and Steal [for Ibotson it was Countess Below Stairs. Those guys were willing to marry someone else. Jason was just using the jealously trick when he sent Filan and Jewel to court the Princess.]I read it while on my first flight overseas to Berlin. I read most of it during layovers in Atlanta and Amsterdam. It's a point in its favour that I could keep my mind on it while literally jumping in my seat with excitement. I'll think fondly of this book for that time alone.The pluses- Filan was ordinary. I'm sick of the master swordsman/healer/awesome/half fae/half witch/half demon beauty heroine. Filan spends a chunk of the time in pain from an injury. The magic was very subtle in this book and felt realistic.These characters did belong together. Jason and Filan were suited to one another.Garian was a charismatic villain. He did plant a good seed of doubt in her mind about Jason.Other fantasy/midevil books could take a leaf from Smith. You don't have to be sexist or like the real worlds midevil days. [here's looking at you Game of Thrones.]The minuses-That people need royalty and kings. After Garian abused his power how could Filan come to that conclusion?I shouldn't have expected a socialist ending I suppose... but I did visit the DDR musuem by that time and my Herr Fuch toy was in the hotel room with me. ;) ( )
  peptastic | Jun 1, 2012 |
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Princess Flian finds herself the unwilling object of desire of three royals. Is the one she wants a villain or a hero? Waking up in a strange place, Flian Elandersi at first doesn t know who she is. One wicked prince tells her she is secretly engaged to an even more wicked king who wants to marry her right away. But before that happens, yet another wicked prince crashes through a window on horseback to sweep her off her feet. Memory returns, and Flian realizes that all any of them seem to want is her considerable wealth, not her pleasant-but-ordinary self. She longs to escape the barracks-like, military atmosphere and return to civilization and her musical studies. Flian endures another abduction, this time in the middle of a poetry reading. Who is the villain? Prince Garian Herlester languid, elegant, sarcastic? Prince Jaim he of the dashing horsemanship? Or King Jason Szinzar, whose ambiguous warning might be a threat? Flian decides it s time to throw off civilization and take action. The problem with action is that duels of wit turn into duels of steel and love can t be grabbed and galloped away.

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Princess Flian finds herself the unwilling object of desire of three royals. Is the one she wants a villain—or a hero? Waking up in a strange place, Flian Elandersi at first doesn’t know who she is. One wicked prince tells her she is secretly engaged to an even more wicked king who wants to marry her right away. But before that happens, yet another wicked prince crashes through a window on horseback to sweep her off her feet.Memory returns, and Flian realizes that all any of them seem to want is her considerable wealth, not her pleasant-but-ordinary self. She longs to escape the barracks-like, military atmosphere and return to civilization and her musical studies. Flian endures another abduction, this time in the middle of a poetry reading. Who is the villain? Prince Garian Herlester—languid, elegant, sarcastic? Prince Jaim—he of the dashing horsemanship? Or King Jason Szinzar, whose ambiguous warning might be a threat? Flian decides it’s time to throw off civilization and take action. The problem with action is that duels of wit turn into duels of steel—and love can’t be grabbed and galloped away.
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