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The Gypsy King by M. Fergus

Fergus, Maureen. The Gypsy King. Toronto: RazorBill Penguin Canada, 2013. Print.

Described by the publisher, Penguin Canada, as “The Princess Bride meets A Game of Thrones with a hint of Ever After,” this book holds great promise. As a fan of all three, my expectations were high and I was a little disappointed. The book is enjoyable, the writing is engaging, the plot has a few interesting twists, the main characters are interesting, but the abrupt ending felt like a marketing ploy. At least it is an effective ploy. I am already watching the shelf for the next book in the series to arrive.

Fergus depicts a rigid caste system, a ruthless and vindictive regent, a selfish quest for eternal life, and a society fighting for survival. The Gypsy King tells the story of Persephone, a strong-willed slave, who longs for freedom but does not take action. When she encounters Azriel, a charming gypsy and resourceful thief, her situation takes a dramatic turn. Azriel believes Persephone may be part of a 15-year old prophecy shared by the last gypsy seer following the slaughter of innocent gypsies. The primary villain, Mordecai, is exceptionally evil; he is ruthless, maniacal, and makes puppy-murdering Cruella look like a normal human being. His actions are more gruesomely depicted than expected and this book is not for those with a weak stomach. The novel contains scenes of violence and sexuality that may not appeal to all readers.

The fiercely independent female protagonist, Persephone, is the best part of this book. I was frustrated with her at times for her reticence to escape her situation, but ultimately I found myself appreciating her loyalty and commitment to those in need of her assistance—both humans and animals. She has moments in distress, but never plays the maiden in need of a hero. Although she clearly has feelings for Azriel, and vice versa, their relationship does not progress much beyond palpable sexual tension. Showing her resourcefulness, our protagonist seizes opportunities and works to extricate herself and others from the grasp of Mordecai and his merciless men. Facing an oppressive society that scorns her social class and her gender, Persephone is fighting her way up two bitterly steep hills. However, she finds the strength, the courage, and the resolve to survive. That being said, she is not a saint. She experiences jealousy, hatred, and selfishness yet she is a vibrant and passionate character. Fergus has developed a perfectly human protagonist and it is a refreshing change. Because I am so looking forward to the next installment and I love a strong female lead, I will give the book four stars.

Recommended: Four out of Four Stars
Reviewer: Jorden Smith

Jorden is a Public Services Librarian in Rutherford Humanities and Social Sciences Library at the University of Alberta.  She is an avid fiction reader and subscribes to Hemingway’s belief that “there is no friend as loyal as a book.”