Although this may look like YA fantasy, what we have with Long May She Reign is more murder mystery than action/adventure as our heroine seeks to solve crimes through science and beakers. The worldbuilding makes for an uncomfortable melange of Renaissance and Sun King influences and then Georgian “scientific method” a la John Dalton and the Quakers. At times, it feels like the book is an attempt to encourage young girls to take up STEM subjects – after all, they lead to adventure and romance!
Story: Freya is very far down the dynastic line and hopes to spend her life exploring science rather than finding a husband and making children. But when a royal celebratory party leads to the the poisoning deaths of every other heir before her, she finds herself suddenly crowned queen. Along with the hunky and misunderstood illegitimate son of the late King, Freya will use her scientific lab to find out not only the poison used but also how it was administered. But there are those who suspect she was the poisoner – and her reign may come to an abrupt end if she cannot prove she was not involved in the murders.
The story moves briskly and certainly the story is decently written. There is an understated romance but the focus is on the science and discovery. The worldbuilding is fairly undefined and created to fit the story rather than being an organically grown milieu that would have been much more believable. Freya is a capable protagonist and author Thomas gives us a surprise ending with the final murderer reveal, though it was clearly telegraphed and easily guessed.
Admittedly, I didn’t find Freya or any of the other characters very interesting or nuanced. There are no vicious or truly greedy characters and all the misdeeds are done through misguided motivations or incompetence rather than avarice. As such, the story did lack a bit of edge; I wanted a Moriarty but ended up with a lot of characters who wouldn’t even cut it as a Disney villain. All of the characters could have used a lot more depth.
In all, Long May She Reign is a decent book that could have used a bit less science and much more edge. A little darkness would have made all the brightness that much more interesting. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.