Published by Blink on September 10, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
Source: The Publisher, Blog Tour
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”
In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.
But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.
When I heard that Annie Sullivan had written a retelling of “The Lady or the Tiger” I was incredibly excited! I’d loved her unique retelling of “The Midas Touch,” and I had no doubt she’d do one of my favorite short stories justice. I distinctly remember reading this story when I was a teenager and being left with that agonizing open ending. I read the story again with my own students when I taught at my homeschool co-op, and one of our exercises was to write their own ending (and, yes, a few of my students did have the princess sick the tiger on her lost love). I was curious to see if Sullivan would leave us with an open ending as well or give us her own version of closure. Of course, I can’t tell you the answer to that. You’ll have to read to find out!
Sullivan has created a unique ancient desert world where water has been rationed to an extreme and many people die from thirst or from the dangers of the desert. The brutality of the world is accented by the king’s system of justice—if someone is accused of a crime, they must go into an arena and choose door #1 or door #2. Behind one is (supposedly) something they want or need; behind the other is a tiger that will rip them to shreds.
I loved Kateri’s journey of discovery about the Desert Boys—the group of rebels who have been stealing water from the kingdom and killed her mother and brother years ago. She thinks she knows who they are and what they stand for, but of course, she learns that nothing is as it seems. I did feel like a few of the revelations came a little too easily—I wish she had discovered things more on her own instead of just being told what really happened—but I still thought that the emotional resonance of those discoveries was there. I was invested in Kateri’s quest to save her kingdom from a vicious ruler, and I was also enamored with the clever and dashing Cion, so the romance resonated with me. The book doesn’t have any magic, so I’m not sure if it can truly be called a “fantasy,” but I understand why it’s labeled this way—it is set in a fantastical desert world, chock full of dangers like poisonous snakes and scorpions, sandstorms, and deadly cacti. There is also a sense that the desert itself is a character—almost a god—who chooses those who deserve to rule.
This book has a vivid setting and a hearty dose of adventure, and it’s sure to please fans of the original short story and also hopefully convince some people who’ve never read the original to see what they’ve been missing!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via FFBC blog tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles.
Tiger Queen poster and signed bookplate (USA only)