My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Raised among the barbaric Wolfers, thirteen-year-old Elske is saved from becoming the Volkking’s Death Maiden by her grandmother, and flees north, where she becomes the servant and friend of Princess Beriel–who is determined to claim the kingdom that is her birthright, stolen from her by her treacherous brother.
The Tale of Elske (or ‘Elske’, depending on which version you have) is the fourth and final novel in the loosely-connected, non-magical fantasy series Tales of the Kingdom.
This is the third time I’ve read Elske’s story and I think I love it more each time.
As always, I loved catching the little hints at events and beloved characters from the previous novels. And I noticed some less obvious points of symmetry this time around, which I’ll credit to the turn of Fortune’s Wheel.
Cynthia’s writing here is as beautiful as ever, to the extent that I found the novel hard to put down, despite my determination to read it slower than the last times, and even found myself clutching the book rather a long time after I was done reading. There is something indescribably enjoyable about the way Cynthia Voigt builds and describes a world, and her books are worth reading for that fact alone.
I’m not sure which I found more entertaining, when people automatically underestimated Elske (her knowledge, her abilities, etc.), or when they found her inscrutably strange and instinctively recognized the strength inside her.
It was gratifying to watch as Elske changed and grew, sometimes even to the extent that she surprised herself. Voigt is a master of character development, no doubt about that.
I did find myself lost once regarding where they were located in the world, which didn’t happen in any of the previous Kingdom novels, but the time I am talking about happened only once and at the beginning when Elske didn’t quite know where she was either, so I give it a pass. Who knows, perhaps it was intentional.
One thing I appreciated was that the Volkaric, this world’s “barbarians”, were not the “dark-skinned barbarians” so common in fantasy works. The book could’ve had more diversity, but some descriptions of people in various places were left vague enough to be whatever the reader liked.
I also found myself thinking a few times that the story could be improved with that universal improver of stories: lesbianism, but alas it wasn’t meant to be this time.
From here I think everything I have to say contains at least small spoilers so you can use your own judgement on reading it or not:
[start]I would have liked to see Beriel’s battle, or at least had more of it recounted, but then it’s Elske’s tale not hers so I’ll just have to imagine it myself from the bit that was shared with Elske.
Like Elske, I panicked a bit when I learned of Win’s actions and his precarious fate!
But the main thing I wanted to hide here in the spoiler tags was this: WHAT THE FUCK BERIEL!? ELSKE HAS NEVER BEEN ANYTHING BUT LOYAL AND A TRUE FRIEND AND YOU HAVE TO THROW A LITTLE BITCH FIT AND END YOUR FRIENDSHIP FOREVER BECAUSE SHE AND THE EARL WANT TO MARRY?????????
(Note: I recognize the goodness in having characters with flaws, but that doesn’t make me any less pissed at Beriel.)[end]