Book Review: The Queen and Knights of Nor R.L. Stelzer

Micha, Princess of Nor, can’t wait for her twenty-second birthday celebration. She wants to laugh with her sister, Olive, and their best friend and cousin, Dillip and maybe spend time with Percival, a prince from nearby Mur. But her celebration is cut short when a messenger arrives at the manor with news that all of the inhabitants of the city of Valde, including her mother and father, have been enchanted by an evil witch Draka, who has escaped from her centuries-old mountain prison. Though she has trained her entire life to become the future ruler of her father’s kingdom, Micha isn’t ready to command armies and save her people, but when Draka allies with the southern dragons and eastern goblins, she has no choice but to take up arms and defend her land. Micha soon enlists the help of Susa, a strange old woman of the forest who is more than she appears. With Susa’s wisdom and the bravery of their father’s captain, Demetrius, Micha and Olive pursue Draka’s horde; however, they quickly learn that Draka can only be killed by a sword imbued with the blood of a great conqueror and wielded by his direct descendent. As the sacrifices pile up, Micha questions her ability to rule and wonders if anything will remain of the home she loves. 

The world of Nor is an enchanted land where birds and bears offer much-needed help to the worthy, and giants roam the land. It is a place where goblins attack heroes, pirates plague coastal cities, and talking rats the size of horses walk upright. In all of this fantastical world-building, heroes still ride in on valiant steads, and good will defeat evil no matter the cost. Of these heroes, Micha is supreme. Her uncertainty in her abilities makes her a very human character. She doesn’t step into challenges knowing she will be successful; she questions her knowledge and sometimes feels the pull of Percival’s insistence that she shouldn’t have to shoulder all of the burdens that have been thrust upon her. She readily admits her fatigue and uncertainty but never shirks her responsibilities. Percival’s fun-loving ways are a direct foil to Micha’s dynamic character growth. With a father who ousted giants and a mother who quelled a pirate rebellion, Micha has big shoes to fill, but even in youth, her wisdom shines. She also has the good sense to know her limitations. Often, she turns to Demetrius for help, and in a sense, they become partners who find their strength in each other. Putting the kingdom above herself, Micha willingly sacrifices whatever is needed to defeat the greedy hubris of Draka.

Though Micha sacrifices much, many of the characters make similar sacrifices. Willing to die doing what’s right rather than live with the consequences of not fighting, these characters add to the righteousness of the novel’s message. Abbott, a halfbreed giant, risks his life in warning Micha and then again by going to his giant family who ostracized him. Dillip suffers a great loss when he fights the oldest dragon in Nor. Demetrius willingly faces off against Draka herself. All who see Micha’s bravery readily defend her and the kingdom, choosing action over complacency. 

Along with this sacrificial theme, acceptance plays a major role in the book. Characters who shouldn’t ally themselves with each other ignore the prejudice that has been a part of their world for centuries. For example, Abbott is immediately feared by most of the people in Micha’s court, but Olive refuses to discount him because of his giant heritage, and the two become inseparable. The rats are generally attacked by Noran soldiers, but soon Micha sees the advantage of befriending their wise king. Even some of the ferocious dragons receive a reprieve from the benevolent Micha.

Mid-level children who love fantasy will quickly fall in love with the land of Nor and its heroic queen. 

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

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