The Girl King by Meg Clothier
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publishing Info: March 2011 by Century (first published 2011)
Star Rating: 3/5
Back Cover Summary:
For twenty years King Giorgi has defended the throne of his fragile kingdom against all comers. Now on the threshold of old age he faces a grave new threat: he has no son to succeed him. There is only his daughter, Tamar; a clever, indomitable and fearless girl.
When a revolt threatens her life, Tamar is sent to live in the mountains, disguised as a boy, until a devastating betrayal places her in the hands of her enemies. Her courageous escape convinces Giorgi she should be his heir, but the nobles are outraged – no woman will ever rule them.
While her father is alive, Tamar has some protection from the hostile forces that surround her, but once he is dead, she is truly alone. She must find the strength to control the bitterly warring factions at court. She must win the respect of her friends and the fear of her enemies. And she must marry a man of whom the elders approve.
But her heart belongs to a reckless boy from the mountains – a poor match for a queen. With rebellion brewing at home and powerful foes circling her borders, Tamar must make a terrible choice between the man she loves and the land she adores …
The unique setting of this book is what attracted me to it initially. It was interesting to read something historical that is set in a different country. I knew nothing about the history of Georgia before reading this book.
Unfortunately, I felt I didn’t get enough sense of that setting. I didn’t get any idea of the culture of the country. This world didn’t come to life because although the physical landscapes like the mountains were beautifully described, I didn’t get a picture of the towns and cities, the people, the clothes, the food, or customs and culture. There was just something lacking that meant I didn’t get a clear picture of 12th century Georgia beyond the landscape.
Many of the descriptions, particularly towards the beginning of the novel, were trying a bit too hard to be creative or poetic, so some of them just didn’t make any sense. This was off-putting particularly in the first few chapters, as it was hard to get into when there were so many odd metaphors.
The plot is fairly standard for this kind of novel. Nothing unexpected happens and most of it is fairly predictable. Obviously the author was constrained by history, but in an afterword she admits to having altered some events. The plot just didn’t stand out from other similar books in any way.
The characters were likeable, although I would have liked to see more of Tamar as queen. Towards the end she shows her strength of character and truly acts like a queen. However there isn’t really anything about her running the country or how she deals with the everyday responsibilities of being a ruler. As this wasn’t the main plot I don’t think it needed a lot of this, but showing Tamar in this role a bit would have been nice to see.
I felt no connection between Tamar and Sos. It was like the author made a romance between them happen, but there wasn’t actually really anything between the characters. They felt forced together, which is not what you want to read from a romance.
Despite these things, I did like it. It was a bit mediocre, but I was invested in the story enough to want to read to the end. It scraped a 3 star rating from me, as generally I only rate something 2 stars if I didn’t like it but it wasn’t enough of a road crash to be a 1 star. It was an interesting story to tell which had a lot of potential, but Clothier could have done a lot more with the material she had to work with.