Walking past Barnes and Noble’s new fantasy section, one book stood out above the rest… and upon returning that huge copy of The Hobbit to where it belonged, I noticed this little gem of a novel behind it. It was called God Save The Queen by Kate Locke. Besides the appealing cover, which is remarkable up close, a quick glance at the synopsis and I decided to give it a try. Friends, it was worth it.
Set in an alternate timeline, the readers are thrust into a world where modern technology mixes with fantasy beings: vampires, werewolves, and goblins. It is nicely implemented in a new way I’ve not seen before. Usually in an urban fantasy novel, technology is the known and the supernatural is, well, the mysterious. This formula works pretty well, but Locke gives us a twist. In her world, the vamps, weres, and goblins are everyday beings among humans but technology is treated like it belongs in a Tolkien book. You can see examples of this early on, where Xandy, the main protagonist, is clearly using a flashlight yet it is described as a “beam” from a “hand-held torch,” giving it a more fantastic feel. What appears to be a cellphone also exists, but is referred to as a “rotary,” vehicles have gothic names, and combat is mostly melee . These details give us a sense of a fantasy world instead of a technological one.
It can be difficult (and confusing at times) to understand the setup of the collective term “aristocrat.” It technically refers to all non-humans, which consists mostly of the nobility of the world, hence the term. Their origin is also unclear; it seems to be a result of the Bubonic plague that has mutated only those with royal blood into either vamps or weres (goblins being the freak tragic result of both mutations) but mentions that regular humans can carry the genes and even produce goblin babies, despite not exhibiting any aristocratic traits. Then there are the halfies: half human, half aristocrat. They look human, except for some crazy shiny hair full of anime colors. They also have some of the aristocrat’s strengths, but lack their weaknesses. They serve as the aristocrats’ protection, which leads to some logistical problems: the book says there is 1 halfie for every 3 humans yet it also mentions that they are all educated and trained at the same school… Kinda hard to buy. And while the aristocrats still control England (which in this alternate world is still a major empire), most humans are very aggressive. It is an awkward balance that makes it hard to justify the readers’ suspense of belief.
The novel begins as a typical mystery novel about a girl searching for what happened to her sister. Locke throws in some twists, but some of them are foreseeable. It quickly turns into more of an action thriller but it flows well side by side with the mystery elements. I won’t ruin the ending but the journey is pretty fun and wild. The characters are great, though a small few do feel like stock, generic figures. The writing style makes for a pretty easy read, with no real annoying quirks some writers tend to have. And Locke uses some believable language; it makes the setting in London feel authentic, though not quite Harry Potter level.
Overall, it’s a great read which I recommend:
+ Good setting
+ Great use of language and storytelling
– Some confusing elements
Editor: Eduardo Montes de Oca