REVIEW: The Hidden Queen by Peter V. Brett

The Hidden Queen by Peter V. Brett

The Hidden Queen is the second instalment in Peter V. Brett’s epic fantasy series, The Nightfall Saga, was released in March 2024. I picked up The Hidden Queen immediately after reading the first book in the series, The Desert Prince, which I was thoroughly impressed with. When picking up The Hidden Queen, I was almost sure I would enjoy it, and I did enjoy it immensely. Brett’s captivating writing is the sort of great fantasy we should all be able to find pleasure in. If epic fantasy series are your thing, you will enjoy your time reading Brett’s work. Before reading The Hidden Queen, you must have already read The Desert Prince, but you do not have to know about Brett’s Demon Cycle series, which is set in the same world. Although they complement each other very well, the two series are separate, and the earlier do not need to have been read as a foundation for the latter.

UK Cover of The Hidden Queen As with the earlier book, The Hidden Queen has two perspectives we follow throughout: Olive Paper and Darin Bales. Uniquely skilled, both are essential in the second war with demonkind – no matter how reluctant they may be to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Finally free of the rigid expectations of being the daughter of the Duchess of Paper, Olive finds that it is no easier to be the son of Ahmann Jardir. Olive does not want to be either or and must navigate both sides of their nature while being part of the front lines of the most crucial battle of a generation. Only an heir of Kaji can wield the magics needed to protect the world, and with both of Olive’s parents still missing, there is no choice but to try. Darin still seems less than everyone, and he knows it. He feels it every moment and is often overwhelmed by the world around him. How can he be helpful to an army when he cannot even cope with a festival crowd? But Darin loves strongly in his own way, and he will face even the demon king to protect those he loves.

In my earlier review of The Desert Prince, I wished the perspectives between Olive and Darin had been more evenly split – I immensely enjoyed Darin’s chapters and wanted to see as much of him as I did Olive. I do not have the same complaint about The Hidden Queen. As The Desert Prince was Olive’s story, The Hidden Queen is Darin’s. This book is where he deservedly gets more of the attention. Darin feels like the group’s underdog; his supernatural skills are best suited to slinking around unseen rather than leading a vanguard or raising an army. Darin is probably my favourite character in the series because of this. His resilience and constant overcoming of smaller challenges show his strength differently from those characters who are more conventionally strong. I also loved how Brett does not forget the young age of Olive, Darin, and their friends. They may be trying to save the world, but Olive still yearns to make their parents proud, and Darin has some very socially awkward moments at which one cannot help but smile, even when they have more pressing issues to deal with.

As has been said before, Brett’s writing is not typically grimdark. But there is a lot in the Nightfall Saga to appeal to those who enjoy darker fantasy. This series is a brilliantly written epic fantasy. It has many dark moments, but there is hope and humour throughout it. The small and large battle scenes are very well written and easy to visualise, which I enjoy when reading. Also, and this is a thought that I have been mulling over since reading the first novel, Brett continues to handle potential hot-button topics with great sensitivity and without any character feeling like a token inclusion. I think he has put a lot of care into creating believable and whole characters, and it is just a part of that character that they are, using Olive and Darin as examples, intersex or neurodivergent. His characters are the beating heart of this series, and Brett has made me care for them deeply.

In conclusion, if excellent epic fantasy is your thing, then you will be satisfied by The Hidden Queen. Thank you very much to Peter V. Brett and the team at Harper Voyager, who sent us an advanced reader copy of the novel to review.

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Fiona Denton

Fiona Denton

Fiona is a former secondary school teacher and current stay at home parent to two very wild and active children. She lives with them and her husband in the UK and can often be found on a beach paddling in the North Sea or stomping through a forest with the sprogs and hounds. She loves to read and has always enjoyed fantasy novels, particularly the very dark and twisty ones with mythical creatures.

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