Long Live the Queen: Sarah Beth Durst’s Favorite Queens in Literature

Long Live the Queen: Sarah Beth Durst’s Favorite Queens in Literature


Sarah Beth Durst’s new epic fantasy novel, The Queen of Blood, is one of our picks for the best sci-fi and fantasy reads of the season. It’s a dark, violent, and twisted tale set in a world where spirits want to rid the world of humans. The only hope the humans have is their Queen, who has the power to protect her people from the spirits. But the Queen’s power is draining and soon a new champion will need to step up. To celebrate the book’s release, Durst shared some of her favorite queens in literature.

With my new book, The Queen of Blood, I didn’t want to write about a princess. I do love princesses. They have great story potential and often come with excellent talking-animal sidekicks. But this time, I wanted to write about a queen, with all the power and life-and-death responsibility that entails. The first book in the Queens of Renthia trilogy is set in a world filled with nature spirits; but these aren’t your sweet, frolicking, pastoral sprites. These spirits want to kill all humans and only queens have the power to control them. I absolutely loved writing about these suffer-no-fools characters who seek to shape their world. With that in mind, I wanted to share a list of some of my favorite queens in literature who left their mark on both their fictional worlds and on me.


Wonderland’s Queens

The most famous of Lewis Carroll’s queens is the Queen of Hearts, who reigns with capricious cruelty. But my favorite was always the lovely and creepy White Queen, who seems so kind and then randomly (and unhelpfully) transforms into a sheep.


The White Witch

With apologies to Snow White’s queen, Jadis (the self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia) is my favorite evil queen, due to the splendidly creepy image of her castle, filled with stone statues who were once her enemies. I refuse to ever try Turkish delight because I’m afraid it won’t live up to what I imagine it tastes like.



I recently fell in love with Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns series. It starts Elisa, who isn’t pretty or strong or anything she thinks a queen should be… until she discovers that she is one. She grows into a powerful, self-confident, intelligent queen who can save a kingdom.



The Rivan Queen makes my list not because I admire her—she’s a selfish, temper-tantrum-throwing child through most of David Eddings’ Belgariad series—but because she’s so vivid. These books were among the first epic fantasy novels I ever fell in love with, and Ce’Nedra is a firestorm that tears through them.


Queen Selenay of Valdemar

Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series was also an early influence on me and my writing. Though the series doesn’t center on Queen Selenay, it’s her benevolent rule that makes Valdemar such a utopia. And the telepathic magical horses help, too.

Honorable mentions

Lady Macbeth (for taking hand-washing to a whole new level)

Daenerys Targaryen (because Mother of Dragons)

Eleanor of Aquitaine (the only real-life queen to make this list)

Who would you choose?

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of ten fantasy novels for adults, teens, and children, including The Lost, Vessel, and The Girl Who Could Not Dream. She won the 2013 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. A graduate of Princeton University, she lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband and children.


  1. I was only recently introduced to the duo of queens in Megan Whalen Turner’s “queen’s thief” series. Upon rising to the throne, the two women lose their birth names and simply become the name of their country. Attolia and Eddis are two women with different personalities and history but linked by steely strength, love for country, and an incorrigible, brilliant man. They’re introduced in “The Thief” but then really get fleshed out and rolling with “The Queen of Attolia” and “The King of Attolia” The series may be labeled YA Fiction but it really isn’t your traditional YA at all. Enjoy!

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