The King’s Questioner by Nikki Katz

A standalone YA fantasy to kick off the new year, here’s what you can expect from The King’s Questioner by Nikki Katz:

From the author of ‘The Midnight Dance’ comes an epic YA fantasy featuring royal drama, dark magic, and a secret that could topple a kingdom.

Kalen has been cursed with a gift: he’s a mental picklock, able to access a person’s memories and secrets by touch. His skills make him the perfect questioner to the king, and he spends his days interrogating prisoners of the crown.

But when Kalen’s estranged childhood friend, Prince Cirrus, falls into a sudden coma, the king begs Kalen to intervene. By accessing Cirrus’ mind, Kalen saves his life—and uncovers a terrifying secret. The prince has a sister, banished long ago, and she is the key to the destruction or survival of the kingdom.

With the help of Cirrus and a silver-haired thief named Luna, Kalen must find the princess and bring her home. Or risk death at the hands of his king.

The book features a unique magic system, a secret princess, a hidden betrayal, a broken friendship, and a quest to set things right. And since it’s a standalone, The King’s Questioner doesn’t have any pesky cliffhanger to deal with, but rather a completed story in one pretty package.

That said, it definitely felt like the story meandered quite a bit. I honestly wasn’t sure where things were going, and the pacing just felt “off” to me. I never quite connected with the characters or the story, and I never really felt pulled into the book. That is, I wasn’t compelled to keep going by the plot — but rather a sense that I should just keep reading for the sake of finishing the book. I wanted to know what happened, but the journey from beginning to end didn’t engage me like I wanted it to.

A small touch of romance felt a bit like an afterthought, and I never quite believed it. Honestly, I kept waiting for Kalen and the prince to start making out … I felt all sorts of flirty, suppressed vibes from them, and was disappointed that it never panned out.

This one didn’t quite work for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. If you like a quick standalone fantasy, this definitely has interesting components. I just wish they’d been tied together a little more strongly.

The King’s Questioner is in stores January 14th.

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