First book review of 2022 coming to you now! And wow, did I decide to start 2022 off with truly high marks!? So, full disclosure: I didn’t expect to love The Councillor by E.J. Beaton as much as I did. It got on my radar after author Sam Hawke tweeted about it (of course, I can’t find the exact tweet, because it was ages ago and I can never read anything in a timely manner). But it stuck with me enough to buy a copy of the book and decide to give it a go as I try to get back into reading again this year.
Well, joke’s on me: The Councillor is so good, it might be put back into a slump, because how do I follow that?! 😂
Publisher: DAW Books | Release Date: March 2021 | Pages: 440
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Fantasy | Format: Hardcover | Source: Bought
This Machiavellian fantasy follows a scholar’s quest to choose the next ruler of her kingdom amidst lies, conspiracy, and assassination.
When the death of Iron Queen Sarelin Brey fractures the realm of Elira, Lysande Prior, the palace scholar and the queen’s closest friend, is appointed Councillor. Publically, Lysande must choose the next monarch from amongst the city-rulers vying for the throne. Privately, she seeks to discover which ruler murdered the queen, suspecting the use of magic.
Resourceful, analytical, and quiet, Lysande appears to embody the motto she was raised with: everything in its place. Yet while she hides her drug addiction from her new associates, she cannot hide her growing interest in power. She becomes locked in a game of strategy with the city-rulers – especially the erudite prince Luca Fontaine, who seems to shift between ally and rival.
Further from home, an old enemy is stirring: the magic-wielding White Queen is on the move again, and her alliance with a traitor among the royal milieu poses a danger not just to the peace of the realm, but to the survival of everything that Lysande cares about.
In a world where the low-born keep their heads down, Lysande must learn to fight an enemy who wears many guises… even as she wages her own battle between ambition and restraint.
On the Page
- Addiction + Overdose (?)
- Arranged marriage
- Blood and gore
- Dead bodies + body parts
- Death of a friend
- Grief and loss
- Knife violence
- Physical injuries and wounds
- Sex + BDSM themes
- Animal attack
- Poverty themes
Content warnings are written up by me, unless specified. Subject to being an incomplete list, though guided by referencing this list and trying to highlight as many as I can identify.
- Lysande Prior. Oh boy, do I fucking love Lysande Prior? Like, I want to BE HER when I grow up!? The way she grows into a role thrust upon her and allows herself to feel ambition and use her unique talents and strengths is legendary. Her mind is fantastic. The tenacity. I bend a knee to Prior, gladly.
- The uniqueness of focus. I’ve read very few books where the scholar is the prime focus and it was positively refreshing. Plus, it felt like, in many areas, where we’d traditionally focus in one area, it was instead shifted to a different (and more interesting) conflict than the one we expected. (Being purposely vague here, due to avoiding spoilers.)
- It’s GAAYYYYYYY. Queernorm world? Check. BISEXUAL MAIN CHARACTER!? Yes and my little bi heart did NOT realize how refreshing that would be. Queer relationships unapologetically on the page!? YES.
- Beautifully written. Like, holy shit, this was gorgeous!? Plus, it was written with a scholar’s perspective in mind and I fucking loved that.
- Last 100 pages. So, I started reading the last 100 pages on my lunch break and then promptly turned off my camera during a Zoom meeting at 1pm and read for another hour during work because I couldn’t stop (sorry day job). Everything had been set up so perfectly. The twists! The reveals! The sexual tension!!! Setting up a sequel!! I just!!!!
- NOTHING. This is perfection.
So, none of us are surprised that The Councillor by E.J. Beaton is getting 5 gems out of 5 gems, right? Gorgeous, shiny gems.
The Councillor has skyrocketed to be one of my favorite books (and I don’t say that lightly). Combining gorgeous writing with a main character I both admire and fear, with a cast of secondary characters that I’m attached to (hello Litany!!), despite (FUCK YOU, REDACTED) and am, um, way too attracted to (you all know who I mean here, surely). The plot was thrilling, I am 100% invested in what happens next and I am both kicking myself for waiting to read this and berating myself for reading it too soon before the sequel comes out, now stuck longing. Also, can I just saw that queernorm worlds are just so superior?
Anyway, that’s enough incoherence from me. Go read The Councillor. Do it, do it, do it!