The Virginia Kingdom Chronicles, Book 1: The Crown is a royal court intrigue meets dystopian action story. It’s like Game of Thrones and Hunger Games had a baby. We here at The Daily Geekette recently received a copy for review from the author L.L. Livesey, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. What if post-apocalyptic America devolved into several districts ruled by Prime Governors? And then they threw off all pretenses of democracy and declared themselves kings and queens? That is the world Elise Koning grew up in, groomed to take over the kingdom of Virginia after her grandmother. But with the privilege of being heir to one of the most powerful districts on the continent comes danger as well.
At age nineteen, Elise is officially dubbed her grandmother’s successor, but her position still faces threats from two sides: her conniving uncle and others like him who desire the position for themselves and her grandmother’s disapproval of her conceited party-girl lifestyle. Fortunately, Elise awakens to the fragility and seriousness of her position, and with the help of her late father’s old tutor recently returned from Europe, she gets down to business preparing to be a good ruler. In the process, she learns to sympathize with the lower classes and discovers the oppressive reality of limited social mobility in a neo-feudal society. When she is queen she intends to make some major changes to the Kingdom of Virginia, if only her uncle will let her get that far.
Despite the world’s regression into the monarchical system of the past, the story is full of females in positions of power. Virginia is currently ruled by Elise’s grandmother, Queen Helen, who is a competent if not compassionate sovereign. An unexpected evil mastermind who poses an even greater menace than Elise’s uncle also turns out to be female. Women in post-apocalyptic Virginia are not held to Victorian sexual mores, but rather experience a very futuristic sexual freedom. Elise lives with her consort as a teenager and nobody expects her to be a paragon of virgin virtue. Likewise, homosexuality is not as stigmatized in Elise’s world as in ours, although the need to produce heirs does still affect how such relationships are treated in the royal families.
One of my favorite aspects of the novel is the backwards love plot. At the start, Elise is already in a long term relationship with the handsome, if vapid, merchant-class social climber Decker. However, as she begins to mature and face her future, he is left behind as a petulant spoiled brat and their relationship dissolves. Next, Elise meets the surly but idealistic ward-class boy Joshua, and they follow a predictable mutual-contempt-turned-love path, but **spoiler alert** there is no happily-ever-after waiting for them. Elise must learn not only about compassion and hard work but also independence if she wants to survive as queen.
L.L. Livesey is a self-published author whose first book exhibits the quality of writing usually only mastered by more experienced writers. You can learn more about her and her series from her website. The Crown was published in June of 2015 and is available for purchase from Amazon in paperback or ebook format.