The Queen is Dead is the second installment of Kate Locke’s THE IMMORTAL EMPIRE series. As such, you kind of know what to expect and it does, therefore, lose some of its surprise. In God Save the Queen, our protagonist Xandra was established to be a tough-as-nails heroine who couldn’t seem to sit still for so much as a minute without finding some sort of chaos to get involved in. She’s always running from one disaster into another, and that’s pretty much what you can expect from The Queen is Dead, as well. Xandra is still Xandra, despite her Goblin Queen status. She still somehow manages to accomplish more in an hour than I probably will in my entire life and chaos must be glued to her.
While much of the plot and characters remain the same as in God Save the Queen, there is still plenty of character development to please readers. For example, Xandra now knows more about who and just what she is and Locke isn’t shy about spending a good portion of the book exposing readers to Xandra’s inner turmoil regarding her new goblin status as well as the changes in her own personality that it brings along. For example, her temper is shorter, and her desire to consume flesh is all encompassing. It’s interesting to watch Xandra deal with these feelings while dealing with the (inevitably) chaotic world around her.
Secondly, the implications of Xandra’s new status are largely political, and with a boyfriend who is a high-ranking werewolf, the political implications are that much more important for their relationship as well as everyone else. Luckily, The Queen is Dead isn’t completely overrun by a boy-meets-girl story. They already met and they are already in a relationship. While it’s obvious that the relationship is rather strained, it’s nice that it can take a backseat to the plot. This allows readers to really enjoy Xandra’s story and her evolution over the course of events without being sidetracked by useless sexual tension.
Though much of The Queen is Dead is taken up by Xandra’s search for her missing brother; it is, perhaps, the most uninteresting part of the book. This is unfortunate, because it does make the book feel rather oddly balanced. Many of the side stories and the like are much more interesting than anything involving Xandra’s brother. In fact, that whole huge plot point had a very been-there-done-that feel to it. It’s not surprising, as you pretty much know how it’s going to end, and the predictability forces the book to lose some of the panache it could have used. Yet you have to read that if you want to enjoy the other stuff that Locke does so well, like expanding on goblin culture, and the politics that readers weren’t deeply exposed to in the first book.
While Kate Locke’s world is interesting and the steampunk elements are nicely done, there is plenty here that is stereotypical for this genre. For example, Xandra is the one woman who can somehow save the planet. Xandra, who seems to find herself everywhere all at once. Xandra, who is tough as nails and so sexy it hurts with her delicious boyfriend who also seems to make everyone drool. While I know to expect these things from urban fantasy, I want to mention them because in a world as unique as Locke’s, these cookie-cutter points are noticeable.
That being said, The Queen is Dead is a fun, fast moving follow-up to God Save the Queen. The characters are easy to sympathize with and the series is, overall, turning into one of those fun series that somehow manages to be brain candy, despite (maybe “because of” would work better here) its stereotypical notes. Xandra is a character that is easy to love, though I find the sheer volume of her accomplishments rather unbelievable. While many of the other plot points are fairly been-there-done-that, if you need a vacation from reality, this series might be a good place to go. Locke brilliantly weaves her unique vision with enough typical urban fantasy notes to allow this series to appeal to UF aficionados and those new to the genre, alike.
FanLit thanks Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues for contributing this guest review.