3 / 5 stars
Read in July 2020
Published July 21, 2020
I would have loved this book in junior high. A YA story where teenager characters act, talk, and think like teenagers, The King’s 100 includes action and intrigue but overall offers a lighter tone with teen drama and romance. Readers in junior high or early high school would enjoy this book, or if you’re in the mood for a lighter YA read with a unique premise, I would recommend picking up this book.
From the beginning, Piper’s world immediately had me hooked. She is a princess in the STEM Kingdom of Capalon, where logic is valued over emotion and all decisions are based on research and calculations. Throughout the first few chapters we meet Piper’s sister, Queen Evelyn, and explore Piper’s kingdom while getting to know her through 1st person POV. I really enjoyed the set up and think author Karin Biggs did some excellent worldbuilding presenting Capalon in a compelling manner without too many boring info dumps or explanations via character dialogue. When Piper discovers her late mother might still be alive in the enemy kingdom of Mondaria, she devises a plan to infiltrate the Mondarian king’s mansion to find her.
Since Capalon was so riveting, I was expecting something equally unique for Mondaria. While Mondaria is the opposite of Capalon in that emotions and self-expression are allowed, I was a bit disappointed to find it’s pretty comparable to our world today, minus the monarchy and a few futuristic touches. We learn that the these kingdoms are actually future versions of what I’m guessing is the USA, but ties to “ancient” cities such as Paris have been long forgotten.
In Mondaria, teenagers wear jeans and plaid shirts, obsess over their hair and makeup, and frequent coffee shops and clothing boutiques. To get into the king’s mansion, Piper auditions for The King’s 100, a group of musicians and magicians who perform exclusively for the king and his court. The 100 mainly consists of teenagers who reside in dorm-style living and spend their days rehearsing for upcoming shows.
Since Piper has always relied on logic to make decisions, it was quite funny seeing her in this new environment where self-expression is allowed. For example, she points out when auditioning for the King’s 100 that her appearance shouldn’t matter if selections are based on talent. This train of thought follows her throughout the book and made for some laugh out loud moments.
I enjoyed Piper’s friendships with the other characters in the series, especially Darden and Layla. When Piper’s main group of girlfriends was introduced, I was pleasantly surprised that a typical “mean girl” wasn’t established and the female characters supported each other from the get-go. Later there is some petty jealousy around boys that made me roll my eyes as a 20-something-year-old, but thinking back to junior high/high school, well… there were definitely some parallels.
We get a slow burning and very sweet friends-to-lovers romance in this book. Although Mondaria has two young princes, Piper is not interested in them but rather finds herself falling for thoughtful and charming fellow King’s 100 drummer, Ari Novak. It’s clear from their first meeting that Piper and Ari are into one other, and while it was wonderful to see them form a solid friendship on their way to love, by the end of the book I was dying for them to be together!
The other side characters are… interesting. The Mondarian royal family comes into play later in the book, and I wish we could’ve had a few scenes where Piper interacts with them sprinkled into the earlier parts of the story to get to know them and provide some buildup to the end. Since we don’t really need to care about these characters until they’re dumped into the finale, it made the ending a bit anticlimactic. However, in spite of this, it did still leave me intrigued. There isn’t really a villain in this story, and the stakes are mostly centered around whether Piper will be revealed as the Capalon princess. Mondarian law mandates that, as their sworn enemies, Capalons who dare set foot in their kingdom will be executed. I found this a bit extreme, but I was willing to roll with it. We get villainous vibes from the Maestro, conductor of the King’s 100 musicians, but honestly his behavior was so erratic that I had zero idea how Biggs actually wanted the reader to feel about him.
While there is one LGTBQ+ character in this book, I was disappointed that there weren’t more. Specifically, this book could have benefitted from adding LGBTQ+ characters in Mondaria to contrast Capalon’s King Xavier. Matches in Capalon are solely based on intelligence to produce the brightest heirs, so they do not factor in romantic feelings or sexual preference. It’s established early in the book that Queen Evelyn’s match, King Xavier, is a gay man. I would’ve liked for Piper to have LGBTQ+ friends in Mondaria who are openly allowed to love whomever they wish, further exploring the differences between the kingdoms and allowing Piper to see what it means to truly love freely. Other than Xavier, this book is pretty straight, especially in the somewhat cringeworthy New Year’s Eve ball scene where couples are matched to kiss at midnight as part of the King’s 100 spectacle. Speaking of kissing, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but cutting someone off mid-sentence to kiss them is not romantic!
The ending of this book felt a bit rushed for everything that happened, and of the mysteries Piper had to decipher throughout the story I was pleasantly surprised by the big revelation of one (the roses), but disappointed by the other (the note). However, the cliffhanger ending was one I never saw coming, and it seems like Biggs has provided the set up for a sequel. There aren’t any signs on Goodreads yet as to whether this book will be a series, so in the meantime I will definitely be on the lookout to see if Piper’s story will continue.
Thank you to Immortal Works via Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.