I have to admit, it took me a while to warm to The Girl King as a book, as initially it seemed as though it was going through all the usual YA tropes and heading in an utterly predictable direction. We have, after all Boy Who is Secretly Special But Traumatised, Girl Who is a Better Fighter Than Everyone and that's just the main characters, not to mention there's a Tragic Romance That Can Never Be...
The basic premise of <I>The Girl King</i> is that Lu has been raised to believe by her father than she is going to be named as his heir - she somehow has been allowed, in a very hierarchical and gender-strict system, to be both a pampered princess and be trained as a warrior. Meanwhile, her weedy sister Min is always in Lu's shadow, so when Lu is overlooked in favour of their slightly-unhinged cousin, Min immediately gets groomed to marry said cousin regardless of his obvious negative qualities. Min also has a secret, and this is one place where things start to diverge slightly from my experience of YA and she starts to want power for herself.
Meanwhile Lu has been forced to flee the capital after the death of her father and has met up with Nokhai, who she knew when they were both younger and who is one of the last survivors of a people who Lu's father has pretty much massacred wholesale. Nokhai is a shapeshifter but unable to control his abilities; together, they set out to try and find allies for Lu in order to help her regain the throne and unseat the dodgy cousin. This plan goes all sorts of wrong as the allies they try to recruit are not themselves the most reliable of people.
One thing I didn't expect is that the moustache-twirling cousin meets a bad end before the end of the book, putting Min and Lu as antagonists in their own right rather than Min as someone else's puppet. I'm not sure I would buy the next book in this series (and to be honest, I got this one from the library) but I wouldn't turn it down if I managed to get my hands on it the same way. All in all, some interesting ideas and an author who may bear watching in the longer term.