The Hidden Queen is a Solid Middle-Book | Review

The second novel in Peter V. Brett’s The Nightfall Saga, The Hidden Queen, takes a little while to get going, but impossible to put down once it does. Check out our full review!

The Hidden Queen: The Nightfall Saga #2
Written By: Peter V. Brett
Published By: Del Rey
Release Date: March 5, 2024
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It’s time to return to the world of The Demon Cycle! Serving as a follow-up to The Desert Prince, and the second (of a planned trilogy) in The Nightfall Saga, The Hidden Queen has a lot of heavy lifting to do. Not only does it need to continue the story from the previous book and tell its own story, but must also set the stage for the big finale to come. It’s largely successful in that endeavor, though it suffers from some problem typical of mid-trilogy books. Even so, fans engaged in this world and characters have a lot to enjoy. Let’s break it down (without spoilers of course)!

Diverging Paths

The Hidden Queen picks up the story shortly following the events of The Desert Prince. It pretty much thrusts you right into the meat of things without looking back. Generally speaking, I prefer it when series/sequels do this; making it all feel like one cohesive story rather than spending too much time recapping things. That said, considering how…girthy…these novels are, it’s tough to remember everything. So if it’s been a little bit since reading Desert Prince, I suggest a quick Wikipedia recap to jog your memory before diving headfirst into this one.

Anyway, the novel takes the same approach to the story as the previous one: using a first person perspective split between the characters of Olive Paper and Darin Bales. As the children of the legendary heroes from the original Demon Cycle series, the weight of their legacy hangs heavy on their shoulders. Especially since the heroes of the last war have now disappeared, presumably captured by the Demon Prince on his quest for revenge.

Having come to terms with themselves after being captured, Princes Olive returns from the desert with a new purpose. Following the attack by the Demon Prince, word is out that the war against the “corelings” is far from over. Returning to the Duchy of Hollow, Olive must unite their people and forge new alliances in order to fight back. All the while being called to the underworld to secure an important seat of power that might prove the world’s only hope at fighting back against the Demon Prince and the incoming Queen.

Meanwhile, Darin, having worked so hard to “rescue” Olive, must contend with the idea of leading his own team of friends straight into the Demon Prince’s hidden fortress in order to rescue their parents who might still be alive. Doing so means fighting the Prince on his own territory. If they want to prevent a new Queen from being born, and unleashing a new horde of corelings upon the world, Darin will have to find a way to bring his friends (and their disparate skills) together as a unit.

As someone who’s always avoided attention and struggled with his own strengths/weaknesses, Darin fears what might come to pass…Much as The Desert Prince was about Olive coming to terms with themselves and place in the world, Hidden Queen takes the same approach with Darin. While both books technically split the story between them, these books have definitely put the primary focus on one more than other. That doesn’t mean the other character doesn’t have some important stuff going on, just that this time, Darin has the most going on in his personal arc.

Peter V. Brett’s writing style and flair for engaging characters/action continues to be on point. Chances are, if you liked any of the previous Demon Cycle stories, you’ll enjoy this one as well. Even with the shift to the first-person perspective (which some fans struggled with in Desert Prince), he does an excellent job of making audiences feel like they’re getting a complete picture of things going on. All the while the action still manages to feel as epic and intense as ever.

The result is a book that really feels/works as a companion to the previous one. It also brings a number of interesting plot points together in a way that clearly sets the stage for a big finale. In this way, it does what all great middle chapters of a trilogy should do, but it also highlights one of the book’s biggest issues…

Caught in the Middle

It’s very, very obvious that The Hidden Queen is the middle-book in a series. Much of the first half of the novel (maybe even a little more) feels like wrapping up loose ends from the previous story threads. While the back half is dedicated to establishing things that will play an important role in the upcoming finale.

That’s not to say the book doesn’t have its own story/purpose, it does…but it feels rushed compared to everything else. Especially when you consider how long the book takes to really get going. The first bit of Hidden Queen takes its sweet time in getting to the meat of the story, instead putting a lot of emphasis on exposition and world-building stuff. Which felt a tad off putting.

I love world-building. I’m all about fleshing out fantastical settings and immersing myself in these fictional cultures and magicks with their own rules. In fact, it’s one of the reasons Brett’s Demon Cycle novels have been so endearing. So why am I having to go through all of it again?

I get the idea for this sequel series is to serve as its own thing and could be read independent of prior series. So some of this exposition is to be expected; but in reality, treating this trilogy as independent/separate went out the window in Desert Prince. The stories are intrinsically linked to the point where much of the emotional moments would be empty/flat without the context of the previous books. Not to mention that much of the exposition Hidden Queen dishes out in the first quarter of the book feels like it was already done in Desert Prince.

This made getting into Hidden Queen a bit tougher than expected. With Desert Prince, I felt like I was stepping back into a world I loved and catching up on all that’s happened since. Here, it felt like I was having to “get through” all the exposition to get to the good stuff; the story.

As good as the book is, something feels off with the general pacing because of this. Once the book’s main story comes into focus, things move at a much quicker pace. Even to the point of skipping certain unnecessary moments (periods of simply walking/planning) to keep things moving along. There are some moments in the final 100 pages are so that are clearly significant to both the characters and story, but at this point, the book breezes past them. It’s odd to have to sit through a bunch of lore dumps—for things we already knew—only to rush through key events that could have used a bit more fleshing out.

It’s an oddity to be sure. Even as frustrating as that was, however, it didn’t take away from the fact that I loved the overall book/story. When I tell you I was hooked, I mean I literally struggled to put it down once things kick off. Seriously, it took me a couple weeks to get through the first 150-200 pages, but only a day or two to finish the remaining 350.

So yeah, it’s still pretty damn great even with the pacing issue.

Ultimately, The Hidden Queen delivers in a number of ways. It does an excellent job of moving this story, and the characters forward in meaningful ways. All the while it continues to bring endearing characters and incredible action/adventure that will keep you flipping pages long into the night. If you enjoyed The Desert Prince, you’ll definitely love getting back into this one.

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Jordan Maison
Jordan Maison
Lover of all things nerdy, Jordan's passion for books began at an early age and simply never stopped.