“In that instant I wanted him, the crown – every last piece of this – like nothing before.”
The Queen: A Selection Novella (HarperTeen, 2014) by Kiera Cass is a short prequel to The Selection series. Although it’s a prequel, it’s best to have read the original trilogy, consisting of The Selection, The Elite, and The One first, as opposed to beginning with this novella.
The Queen is told from the point-of-view of Prince Maxon’s mother, Amberly, during the course of her own Selection when she was younger. Fans of the original trilogy will remember that Amberly was beloved and kind, so the question is how she ever came to fall for such a harsh ruler as her husband, King Clarkson. The novella begins with almost an apology from the author, Kiera Cass, as she writes to the reader: “I never meant for this novella to condone abusive relationships. I hoped, like everything I make, that it would simply be honest.” When I read the story, I would not have called Clarkson’s behavior abusive. He’s an alpha male, but romance readers tend to like that. The novella is best described in Cass’s words that followed: “This is a peek behind the curtain at two broken people.”
I felt this prequel novella did a very good job at showing us Amberly’s origins and what she saw in Clarkson, before he became the king we know. I was surprised that Clarkson himself had to battle so many demons in the shadow of his dysfunctional parents and a violent, addicted mother. Although Amberly had loved the prince ever since she was a little girl, accepting the crown to become his wife would be a double-edged sword.
“He was everything I ever wanted. It was all the strings attached to him that frightened me.“
“My true worry was that…life as a princess might be challenging at best. At worst it would be horrific.”
The fact that she loved him in spite of that showed a degree of maturity and selflessness that would become necessary for her to serve as queen later.
“His world looked like a storm. I was going to be its center.”
Amberly herself is fighting her own personal battles. She comes from a polluted land where she toiled with manual labor, leaving her with considerable health problems. But what was most touching and unexpected was the way Clarkson, even in his own brusque manner, cared for her and lifted her up – literally and figuratively – out of her ailments. It was also sweet to see that he did genuinely love her, and recognized the fact that he needed her.
“Clarkson put his arms around me, shielding me even more. But I suspected he needed the embrace more than I did.”
Overall, this was a lovely little return to Illéa, at just the right length. Even though it was a mini-novel, I felt we somehow got to know Amberly at least as well as America and Eadlyn in their full-length books. If you’re a fan of The Selection series and want to get your hands on more of Kiera Cass’s world, don’t overlook The Queen!