Cover Image: The Vanished Queen

The Vanished Queen

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The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell is a work of fantasy with political intrigue. The story had an interesting premise, but the writing seemed to lack something that would have tied everything together or presented it in a more compelling manner. I think a little editing down to improve the flow and pacing would have been beneficial.
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The Vanished Queen is a story about upending the tyranny of old men, but while delightful, ultimately the hyperfocus on this theme is the root of many of this book's weaknesses.

The two women at the heart of the story, Mirantha and Anza, are victims of the oppressive patriarchy under the rule of the evil king. This book follows their journeys toward self-empowerment and rebellion. Then there is Esvar, Mirantha's son, who seeks vengeance for his mother's disappearance by plotting to overthrow his father, the king. The characters are fun to follow, if a bit generic, but Mirantha's easily the most interesting one. The mystery of her character is set up very well with some great payoff. 

Unfortunately, I had some issues with the pacing and setup. The story could use some extra nuance and depth to make it feel more unique. For a story about trying to enact change against an evil government, there wasn't a lot of worldbuilding set in place to explain why the world needed to change aside from "the king is bad." The setting was rather simplistic, and it's difficult to sympathize with the rebellion when the rebellion doesn't have a strong enough goal to create a new world that would convince me that it would be better for the people. A great villain is a huge part of a good story, and having a very simple antagonist in the king weakened what could have otherwise been a kicker narrative. 

Kudos for the bi rep!
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Good story, but kind of dragged in places. Overall I liked it and would recommend to lovers of fantasy.
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I thought that it would be an interesting fantasy because it was about a strong woman defeating an evil king. However, this was a very slow moving novel and the book started to drag. There was also very little world-building in the story. The politics were also nonexistent. Still, I recommend this for fans of The Unspoken Name, The Girls of Paper Fire, and  Queen of Coins and Whispers!
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I found this to be an enjoyable read, keeping me on my toes throughout.  The storyline was written well and flowed seamlessly. I look forward to reading more by this author!
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The Vanished Queen is a really fun fantasy read—it definitely helped get me out of my reading slump! The pacing was solid—a bit slow to get started, but it really ramped up around 30% in and I was hooked. While the story isn't super magical, there is a lovely sense of adventure. I also feel like I really need to learn my fantasy subgenres because I always expect some form of magic, which isn't always the case.

Anza was a fiery and clever main character. I enjoyed seeing her learn more about strategy and how to stage a revolution. I feel like sometimes in fantasy main characters are followed blindly. But here Anza was placed in a position where her opinion was valued, yet it was clear that she didn't always know best. It was refreshing. Of course, I was here for her romance with Esvar, and his growth as a character throughout the story. Their youth shines through and makes you really root for them.

Overally, this is a fun fantasy adventure! If anything, I wish the romance between Anza and Esvar was given a bit more depth. It kind of developed over a handful of conversations, where one of them really dominated the conversation. I wish they were able to talk or exchange letters maybe like one more time.. though I see how that would be quite hard, considering the circumstances. Anyways, if you're looking for a quick and fun fantasy from a new voice, here you are!
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Overall, a solid story that, with a few tweaks, could have been a really great story. The biggest one is the names--names are vital to a reader being able to connect with a story, and there were just too many names that didn't work. I couldn't figure out what sort of vibe Campbell was going for, but well over half the names (the king, the country, the warring neighbors, etc) didn't roll off the tongue, felt awkward on the page, and created enough of a disconnect with the story that it was well over half the book before I was able to really connect with the overall plot. To the end, my mind was replacing names with station (king or country) and that will always deduct from how impactful a story will be for me. The other big one for me was lack of good foundation for the romance--I didn't mind the romance, expected it, but it was not properly supported in the text.

I did figure out the major twists before they happened, which is always a smidge disappointing, but not a major turn off because I didn't figure them out too far in advance.

Overall, a solid fantasy that was a little more political than I care for, but it had some compelling characters and some refreshing notes of what it means to fight an evil and corrupt dictator.
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I tried three separate times to get into this one, but it just wasn’t for me. There was nothing there to pull me in and keep me engaged. I might try again one day, but for now I’ll set this one aside.
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My Review: Solid but Wanted to Love It More
Rep: LGBTQIA+, feminist

This was a good story but I didn’t love it or hate it. I enjoyed it whilst reading but it didn’t have that uniqueness I wanted.

The Pros: What Worked For Me

I absolutely adored reading from Queen Mirantha’s perspective. She was a complex character and I would have been happy if she had been the protagonist throughout.
The worldbuilding was solid and easy to imagine, with enough political intrigue to keep me happy.

The Cons: What I Didn’t Like

Apart from Mirantha’s character, I didn’t feel a connection to any character. They were all very one-dimensional. This made it difficult to believe in the genuinity of any character interactions.
At times, the pacing was slow and that made the story drag.
The plot was predictable and I wasn’t surprised by anything. I was hoping its feminist theme would be stronger, or seen in more female characters but that didn’t happen.
At the end of the day, this wasn’t a terrible read. However, it wasn’t extremely memorable. I enjoyed it whilst I was reading it, so for that reason, I’m giving it 3 stars.
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This was totally fine, but I wasn't that into it. Some of the characters were good, but I thought that others were a bit caricature-like. I definitely could have done with more world-building as well.
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The Vanished Queen was a fantastic debut. I love epic fantasy novels with court intrigue and they fit a niche many of my patrons look for!
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This book had very strong, well developed characters. The plot was interesting, and while it took a little bit to get going, i think hose may be my favorite kinds of stories. The ones who keep you interested even when you aren't entirely sure what's going on, or if it seems like nothing is going on but you still keep reading. That's a good author, taking the time to set up the world and get you invested. I would recommend this
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Slow start but strong finish.
I was caught in the first 20 pages of the story, and the it was slow going for the first 30% of the book. After that, it was harder to put the book down. Beyond the first 30%, the story pacing was good, not too fast, not too slow. Loved the inter-generational aspect of the old passing their wisdom to the young, and the young actually taking it to heart. Most of the YA dystopia books these days seem to be the young leading the young blindly.
The characters were all likeable, and well-rounded. Loved that not everybody survives so you find yourself really rooting for the good guys. There's romance as in most YA stories but very minimal which keeps the story focused.
There was some world building but I don't have a solid sense of the world these characters live in. There's the Citadel where the kind (and the nobles?) live, the Temple (but it also seemed like there were multiple temples, but one with a capital T?), the rich section, the poor section, and then there are islands? A lot of questions about the world.
Also loved the political intrigue which could rival Game of Thrones. At least there was no Ramsay Bolton, though Doru could easily be equally cruel.
All in all, a good read, and right up there with Graceling and Throne of Glass Book 1.
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It starts off slow and kind of dense, but once the action begins, it's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. It reads as a true epic, one that makes you feel the world really has been reshaped as you read it. Would recommend.
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I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Good read, but predictable. 

Thank you kindly to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for this review copy.
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The Vanished Queen was a complex story full of political intrigue and revolution. While I had a good time reading it, though, I never quite felt connected to the characters or what was happening.
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It was only after looking at this book's Goodreads profile, just before writing this review, that I realised how many pages it is. That's the thing with e-ARCs; there are no page numbers if you're less than lucky. Which I was. My Kindle told me I would finish this book in 7 hours and while it did take me that long, I thought, "Oh god, what if this book completely sucks and I waste my Sunday on it?"

Thankfully, this book turned out to be a little gem. It was nothing special or life-changing, but it did give me a little break from reality, something I cherished. 

The world here is not super developed but I felt it held enough intrigue to keep me hooked. There were some aspects that I felt could definitely have been explored more - and it wouldn't even have taken much, just a couple of lines of dialogue - but other than these two, the author has a pretty good foundation to expand on, if that is going to happen. 

The characters were really fleshed out and while I couldn't connect with them like I have with other characters in the past, I was able to sympathise with them and want them to win. I think Esvar was my favourite, but just because I'm a sucker for tall, mysterious, emotionally damaged (fictional) men. We all have our flaws.

I think what stopped this book from being really good was the distance of the writing. Other good fantasy books that have wrapped me up are always more personal, more willing to yield information both about the world and about the characters. But in this book, while the writing definitely was really good and captivating, it was not enough for me to form a bond with the characters or with the world. 

This book was just plain fun. It reminded me of what I love most about fantasy without asking me to get too invested. 

We also have a heroine who has had past relationships with both men and women and a world where such relationships are normal. Goals or what? And as if this isn't tempting enough, we have an abuse victim exacting revenge on their abuser and then getting to live freely and to plan out a future. We have women playing major roles in the political sphere of this world, and people who represent all the flaws and beauties of humanity without compromising on either.
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This one was, unfortunately, not for me.  I was bored throughout, and felt like the only thing that was getting me through it was the only thing that was getting me through this one. I felt like it may have been building up to this large climax that just never happened. One thing I do like about it is that there is bi-sexual representation with one of the main characters, and there is also the world is queer normalized. I liked the world that the author built. 

The characters were okay. The villain felt like he was evil for the sake of being evil. I wish his motivations had been explored a little bit more, because it really felt like he was evil just because he needed to be.  

Just because I didn't love this one doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try! This one was very character-driven, so if you love stories like that, I would definitely recommend it!
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I generally enjoy young adult/new adult fantasy, and though this fantasy included popular elements- a villainous monarch, an underground rebel alliance, and a brave heroine that challenges social norms, the story fell a little flat. The characters didn't really inspire emotional investment, and side characters were not the most memorable. 
The pacing is slow, and the magical elements are not described in a manner that would intrigue the reader. I think the story has potential, but it was missing elements that would "catch hold" of the reader.
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Yet another absolutely stunning cover, and an equally amazing read! I had so much fun reading this book!
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