Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Long May She Reign

Long May She Reign

Rhiannon Thomas
For ages 13 and up
HarperCollins, 2017   ISBN: 978-0062418685

Freya is not traditionally beautiful or graceful. Nor is she poised and self-assured. Nor does she feel comfortable when she has to spend time at the king’s court. In short, she does not fit in with the other courtiers, and many of them make sure that she knows that they consider her to be outsider. After the death of her beloved mother, Freya tried to honor her by working on trying to find a way to fit in with court life, but to no avail.

Now she is resigned to being “Awkward Freya, strange Freya, silent stuttering Freya who said rude things by accident and was so very, very plain.” She avoids going court and instead spends her time doing experiments in her lab. Her plan is to leave her homeland as soon as she can so that she can study science to her heart’s content with a mentor who understands and respects her.

For now Freya has to respect her father’s wishes and right now her father insists that Freya dress up in the ridiculous styles favored by the court to attend the king’s birthday celebration. The whole business is miserable for her, and eventually a panic attack - triggered by too many people, too much noise, and too much stress - takes hold of Freya. Freya has to hold on to herself as hard as she can so that she does not to run screaming from the room. Thankfully, Freya’s friend Naomi sees that she is in distress and escorts her out of the hall and into the gardens. Soon after the two girls decide to abandon the party and they go back to Freya’s house together. Freya gets wrapped up in her experiments and she barely notices that hours have gone by when her father arrives at the house accompanied by some palace guards.

Apparently Freya’s defection from the celebration ended up saving her life. The king and hundreds of other people are all dead, poisoned by an unknown enemy. Freya, who was once twenty-third in line for the throne, is now the queen of the country.

Freya is horrified by this news. She has neither the temperament nor the knowledge to be a queen. She is awkward, cannot speak in public, and has no patience for all the nonsensical traditions and conventions of the court. Surely there is someone else who can be the next ruler of the land; but there isn’t.

The first thing that happens is that Freya and her advisors and Naomi are all taken to a fort where, it is hoped, they can be kept safe. The surviving nobles think that Freya is completely unsuited to being the queen, as do her councilors. They want to dictate to Freya, to tell her what she should do. Freya has no idea how to behave like a queen and she allows her councilors to make decisions on her behalf. She decides to focus on finding out what was used to kill the king. If she succeeds perhaps then she will be able to find out who was responsible. She is a scientist and doing experiments is what she is good at.

Freya soon discovers that letting others run her kingdom for her is not a good thing to do. She is horrified when she learns that the people in her city (many of whom are terribly poor) were forced to pay for the lavish and extremely expensive funerals of the king and the other nobles. If the people could not pay the fee they were imprisoned. Freya is furious that decisions were made in her name behind her back and she insists that the fees imposed on the commoners must be repaid. Freya even stands up to her father, insisting that from now on no more laws will be passed without her approval.

Freya comes to learn that she has inherited a country whose coffers are empty. The people are suffering while the nobles eat cake that is decorated with gold. Something has to change, and she is going to have to be the one who brings about that change. The problem is that the king’s closest friend thinks that Freya was behind the poisonings and now he is determined to bring her down, no matter what the cost. Freya may end up with a civil war on her hands.

This fascinating book takes us into the life of a young woman who is called upon to do something that she is completely ill-equipped to do. Freya stumbles, falls, and makes countless mistakes as she tries to do the right thing. Her lack of people skills and political acumen means that she makes powerful enemies without even meaning to.  Freya is going to have to dig deep in her well of courage to survive. She is also going to have to be manipulative and devious.