By Cynthia Bujnicki
Princess Kateri must fight for her right to rule her kingdom in the arena. However, winning not only guarantees her right, but it also ensures that she can keep her promise to her mother and protect her city and the citizens within, a city plagued with drought and windstorms. However, when her final opponent is announced, Kateri sees the danger she is in. Fleeing into the desert, Kateri seeks the Desert Boys in the hopes that they will train her to defeat the monster ahead of her. However, when secrets come undone, Kateri in unsure if the key to saving her kingdom unlocks salvation or a murderous tiger.
A fascinating retelling. The short story does not give much to the reader other than leaving the reader with the question of whether or not the main character loves her beloved enough to keep him alive or if she is selfish enough to see him die. That is a very superficial way of looking at the original tale, admittedly but, but here Sullivan has taken the story, and she has adapted and expanded upon it in a brilliant way. Princess Kateri is a fierce female character who has to fight for her right to rule her people; it is tradition, but also the way her father wants it. He does not want weakness shown in his kingdom and want’s to make sure that his heir, whether it be his daughter or the man who ultimately defeats her, is a strong man who could destroy their enemies.
There is much tension between Kateri and her father that serves as an underlying part of the story’s tension. Kateri both sees him and does not see him at the same time. She loves her father and believes him, and through a rose-colored lens, she watches his moves. The change in her perspective lends much to her personal growth as those lenses begin to crack slowly and she can see the reality of the worlds around her, the truth behind all the lies that have governed her life.
It is a journey of personal growth for Kateri, which makes for an exciting read because already she starts as this formidable female character, she is a gladiator. Moreover, yet there is a frailty about her that makes her relatable, an understanding and connection to the past that pushes her to be a better person. Her resilience, her strength, and her ability to learn all make her a strong female character. Moreover, the development that goes into that is exceptionally well-done on Sullivan’s part.
As for the story, it has come a long way from the short story. Yes, there is a woman, yes there are some tigers, and yes, there are two doors that an accused must choose from, but that is where the similarities end. Sullivan took those ideas, and she was able to craft a tension driven story from those elements to draw the reader into a new narrative. There are classic tropes in the story regarding the villains, but it is the journey the story takes, the progression and pace that keep it unique and entertaining for the reader.
Tiger Queen is, ultimately, a riveting read. The landscape and detail of the world built here are both beautiful and deadly and has a vibrant aesthetic to it as it tells this story. (★★★★☆)