MAIDEN HILLS by N.L. Estrada is a tale as old as time. On her deathbed, the Queen tells her daughter, Princess Juliana, a mind-blowing secret—they are both survivors of a magical race that was slaughtered by the King two decades earlier. Like all good heroes, Princess Juliana initially denies her destiny. Mother went mad on her deathbed! Juliana isn’t magical! But she is. Ancient gemstones give her the power of telepathy and the ability to control animals. Juliana must round up her fellow magical survivors, the Mejians, and rebuild the enchanted land of Maiden Hills. Obstacles abound, not the least of which is Princess Juliana’s arranged marriage to wicked King Edmund, whose personal vendetta compels him to kill any remaining Mejians. (Plus, there’s a troubling prophecy about Mejians rising up and reclaiming the throne.) Princess Juliana finds an ally — and forbidden love interest — in her childhood friend, Jack. Raised as brothers, Jack and Edmund have their own deep-seated rivalry. When they go to war, they battle not only for control of the kingdom, but for Juliana’s heart.
MAIDEN HILLS feels like George R.R. Martin’s A Game Of Thrones with the volume turned down to a comfortable, non-offensive six. The sex and violence are restricted to middle school levels, while throne jockeying and magical elements take center stage. Estrada is a silky smooth storyteller and what MAIDEN HILLS lacks in originality it makes up for with a lean and effective narrative style. The novel goes down easy and hits all the rights notes you expect from the classic fantasy genre — knights on horseback, clashing swords, and breathtaking magic. On a deeper level MAIDEN HILLS is about the roles women take (or are forced to take) in a patriarchal society. The women of this story are protectors, silent warriors, keepers of secrets. Most importantly, they’re the creators of children, which is perhaps the greatest magic trick of all.
A teen-friendly, female-centric version of A Game Of Thrones with simplified plots, toned down sex, and far fewer beheadings, MAIDEN HILLS is classic story that will appeal to fantasy readers of all ages, and may find a welcome home with younger audiences.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader