THE GIRL KING by Mimi Yu
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Princess Lu has known for years that her father plans to name her as his heir. She has spent those years training, enthusiastically learning swordplay, riding, hunting–all the skills she will need as emperor. But when her father instead names her cousin Set as his heir, betrothing Lu to him in the process, Lu knows it is her mother’s doing. Her mother has always hated her and favored her younger sister Min, the princess who desperately tries to do whatever is expected of her, no matter how much anger boils inside of her. Lu devises a plan to take back the throne, but when it goes wrong, she finds herself on the run with a boy from her past, one of few survivors of a genocide perpetrated by Lu’s father. And Min finds herself married to Set, an unlikely empress, with her mother, Set, and an unnerving monk all trying to influence and claim her surprising power as her own.
There is a lot going on in this series starter, set in an Asian-inspired fantasy world. The world building is rich, with themes of ethnic conflict, identity, morality in politics, and the use and abuse of power–to name a few–adding depth to a whirlwind plot. A fun read for fantasy fans!