Book Review

The Councillor by E.J. Beaton

Genre | Fantasy
Page #s | 442
Publishing Date | March 2021

This Machiavellian fantasy follows a scholar’s quest to choose the next ruler of her kingdom amidst lies, conspiracy, and assassination.

When the death of Iron Queen Sarelin Brey fractures the realm of Elira, Lysande Prior, the palace scholar and the queen’s closest friend, is appointed Councillor. Publically, Lysande must choose the next monarch from amongst the city-rulers vying for the throne. Privately, she seeks to discover which ruler murdered the queen, suspecting the use of magic.

Resourceful, analytical, and quiet, Lysande appears to embody the motto she was raised with: everything in its place. Yet while she hides her drug addiction from her new associates, she cannot hide her growing interest in power. She becomes locked in a game of strategy with the city-rulers – especially the erudite prince Luca Fontaine, who seems to shift between ally and rival.

Further from home, an old enemy is stirring: the magic-wielding White Queen is on the move again, and her alliance with a traitor among the royal milieu poses a danger not just to the peace of the realm, but to the survival of everything that Lysande cares about.

In a world where the low-born keep their heads down, Lysande must learn to fight an enemy who wears many guises… even as she wages her own battle between ambition and restraint.

Goodreads

When the queen is murdered, her lowborn orphan scholar is responsible for picking the next ruler despite the dissatisfaction of the ruling class. They’re about to be a lot more upset, because this taste of power goes to Lysande’s head, and she’s not about to give it up.

I ADORED Lysande’s morally complicated character. It is so rare to read a book with a genius drug addict protagonist with a chip on their shoulder who… is a woman. Lysande is not a bad person; once she has power, she immediately stops the executions of magical people (who are rounded up and killed out of fear rather than justice). But she consciously chooses to pick her battles and only ask for so much, even if it means some will suffer for it. Even if it doesn’t make her hero, well, that’s exactly why I like her. She’s not a hero.

Sharing the load of leadership with Lysande is a group of city rulers. They’re from wildly distinct regions (winter, desert, jungle, Italy), which strains credulity, but I love them all the same. Lysande has to navigate friendships and political alliances while working out who murdered the queen under orders from the White Queen (aka the looming threat). She also navigates sexy times with multiple people, both men and women, with some pretty provocative explorations of power play. What is this book?! I love it.

I found the first 50-100 pages a little slow, but once Lysande meets the other city rulers, it picks up enormously. It helps that the prose is stunning and lyrical, and eventually I just couldn’t put it down. This is very much set up for a sequel, and I hope we get one soon!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

The Councillor is perfect for anyone who wishes fantasy novels focused on the smart people rather than the buff people.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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