Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach
Heaven’s Queen (2014) is the final book in Rachel Bach’s PARADOX trilogy. I read the first two novels, Fortune’s Pawn and Honor’s Knight nine years ago in audio format, but this final installment, though published in print in 2014, wasn’t available in audio format until November 2022 (I didn’t look into the reason for this). Not surprisingly, I had to go back and read the first two novels again to refresh my memory because I didn’t remember the story very well. This review may contain mild spoilers for the first two books.
Heaven’s Queen begins with a prologue, set several years earlier, that lets us see the story, for just a moment, from Commander Brian Caldswell’s perspective. Now we finally understand his history, motivations, and character in a way that we haven’t heretofore. We also understand how high the stakes are and, therefore, why some of Caldswell’s immoral actions might seem justified, at least to himself. Yes, he is responsible for enslaving a girl named Maat who uses her magic to enslave other girls, but these “daughters of Maat” are the only ones who can kill the phantoms who destroy planets full of people.
After the prologue, we jump back into the story, right where we left off in Honor’s Knight. Devi and Rupert have escaped the people and the aliens who are trying to capture Devi because they want to use the magic that’s been building in her body since she was infected with a virus earlier in the story. She’s been told that scientists might be able to figure out how to harness the virus to kill the phantoms, thus saving the universe and freeing Maat and her daughters. But Devi doesn’t know who can be trusted to perform this research. Will she end up as a victim of the virus, a lab rat, a weapon, or a savior?
In the past, Devi, one of the best mercs in the universe, would have gladly laid down her life for others, but now that she has finally found love, she isn’t so eager to be that kind of hero.
So, Devi’s on the run and she’s got Rupert, the super hot chef (who’s way more than a chef) by her side. She isn’t absolutely certain that she can trust him, either, and she’s got a few good reasons not to do so, but she’ll have plenty of opportunities to test his loyalty in Heaven’s Queen. Some of the things she learns about Rupert are unwelcome and explain his past reticence about a relationship with her.
Can Devi free the slaves, save the universe, stay alive, and be with Rupert? The chances are slim, but if anyone can do it, Devi can.
Heaven’s Queen is a dramatic and exciting finale to the PARADOX trilogy. Fans who’ve enjoyed the series so far will likely be happy with how it ends. The pace rarely lets up, there’s plenty of action, surprises occur, mysteries are solved, and some characters make unexpectedly noble sacrifices. There’s much to like.
On the other hand, I’m still struggling to like Devi (especially after the way she treats a former lover in this book), I’m not completely convinced of the love between Devi and Rupert, and the moral dilemma, which was simplistic to begin with, was also solved a little too simply (though not easily).
Emily Durante is the narrator of Tantor Audio’s edition of Heaven’s Queen. I’m not sure if she recorded this book years ago and Tantor finally released it in 2022, or if she only recently recorded it. Either way, the eight-year gap isn’t noticeable at all. She does a great job.