Review: The Girl King by Mimi Yu

The Girl King by Mimi YuThe Girl King
Mimi Yu
Bloomsbury YA
Published on January 8, 2019

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About The Girl King

All hail the Girl King.

Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead—a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally—and an army—if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved…

Alone in the volatile court, Min’s hidden power awakens—a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign…or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.

My Review
Wow. Where to start! The Girl King has so much going on in it. I loved all three of the characters telling the story. Lu and her sister Min almost couldn’t be more opposite. Where Lu is bold and brash, Min is timid and constantly worries about disappointing or offending anyone. As Lu runs from home and the man who would kill her to secure his seat as emperor, she learns to depend on and value others. Left behind, Min gains a new boldness herself when her bitterness at being overlooked grows to overtake the shyness that’s kept her quiet until now.

And then there’s Nokhai, who wants to live a simple life in hiding, and instead has this huge task (saving the princess, saving his mentor, ultimately saving his people) thrust upon him. He’s smart and sweet and totally not charmed by Lu’s position or her temper.

Beyond the characters, The Girl King has a rich story world packed with history and conflict between ethnic groups. It felt very real and added lots of layers to the plot and the characters’ relationships.

For me the only struggle was with the amount of violence in The Girl King. I’m kind of a pansy where it comes to that sort of thing, and lots of the descriptions had me cringing. I might have skimmed over the aftermath of one particular battle late in the story. So I wish it hadn’t been so graphic in that way.

But I enjoyed the story and the characters so much. I felt like all three main characters grew so much through The Girl King, and the plot carried me away. Next year when the sequel comes out, I’m sure I’ll be looking for it.
If you like books by Leigh Bardugo (I loved Six of Crows, but I think Shadow and Bone probably makes a better comparison here, and I haven’t finished reading that one.) then you will want to check out The Girl King.

The Girl King on AmazonRecommended for Ages 14 up.

Cultural Elements
Most of the characters are described as having ochre or tawny skin. Lu’s empire contains lots of different ethnic groups. Some have been persecuted and killed.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used somewhat infrequently. I didn’t keep a tally, but I’d say probably a dozen times or so. Some of the instances are intense because one character uses a curse to dehumanize and belittle another.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between a boy and girl. At one point, it looks as though the characters will do more, but they stop themselves.
At one point, a soldier threatens to rape a boy.

Spiritual Content
Some tribe (called Kith) members have the ability to shape shift into an animal. Shamanesses and those who’ve studied under them learn to use magic.
A shamaness placed a curse on a family as a means for revenge. Her spirit continues to haunt one family member.

Violent Content
The Girl King contains quite a bit of graphic violence. Assassins chase the princess. Descriptions of the battle get pretty graphic. Later, a soldier threatens a boy, acting as if he means to rape him. He meets a pretty violent end.
After a battle in the sky (you had to be there), soldiers and participants fall to the ground, leaving bloodstains and carnage everywhere below. Some of the descriptions of that are pretty vivid, too.

Drug Content
None.

The Girl King on Goodreads

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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About Kasey Giard

Kasey is a mother, reader and aspiring author. When she's not reading or writing, you might find her out on the water fly fishing, pretending she can keep houseplants alive, or talking with the family rescue cat.

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