I am in the minority for this one judging by the rave reviews it is getting ahead of its release. Like many of those other reviewers, I received a copy of The Councillor from NetGalley and DAW in exchange for a review. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a short one: I did not finish this book.
We’re off to a great start. Lysande is an advisor/close friend to Queen Sarelin, who plucked her from an orphanage for her scholastic potential. Sarelin dies unexpectedly (murder!), but not before she secretly named Lysande as her Councillor. Lysande’s sole purpose in this role? Since Sarelin died without an heir, Lysande must select the new monarch of their realm from one of the four rulers of the cities that make up the realm. Of course, those rulers hate each other, and one or more of them might have murdered the queen. Sounds like a fun job.
This is exactly the kind of political intrigue I want from my high fantasy. Toss in the fact that there are a ton of openly queer characters (and it’s normal), and that’s cool: The Councillor should be a book for me. So what gives?
It drags. Like seriously, seriously dragged for me. Page after page after scene after scene of repetitive action and description. I reached a point where I was skimming just to see when something actually happened, and I think I finally got about a quarter of the way into the book before that occurred.
Despite a great setting and cool plot, none of the characterization and especially none of the narration works for me. Nothing gels into a compelling voice that makes me want to sit on the edge of my seat and bite my nails like I did for a book like The Goblin Emperor, which faces a similarly-inexperienced person dealing with huge political machinations.
All I can say, attempting to assuage my feeling bad for writing this review, is that I don’t think these are problems with the book or Beaton’s writing. As I said earlier, the critical consensus seems to be positive, so if you are interested in The Councillor, I would go with that—please don’t take this critique as a recommendation to skip this one. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me, and I decided to accept that and move on. Maybe next time!