Wolf Queen (or Queen of Wolves in some publications) is the third of four books in the Claidi quartet, a series of books that are told in diary-form by the young heroine Claidi and her travels throughout a fantasy land. In the previous installments, Wolf Tower and Wolf Star, she has escaped slavery, destroyed a corrupt system, found her true love, been kept prisoner in a moving castle and escaped once more in a controllable star. Throughout all of these amazing adventures, Claidi has kept a record in her book, and untangled much of the mystery surrounding her birth and destiny.
Now all she wants to do is be reunited with her beloved Argul, and has used the floating star/tower Yinyay to track down the Hulta people, of which Argul is leader. But when she finally finds them, she is met only with mistrust and anger: in her absence Argul was told that she ran off with a former acquaintance Nemian and no longer wants to marry him. Now he has left the Hulta people, and Claidi is not going to get any help from them due to her perceived betrayal. Determined to track him down, Claidi follows his trail northwards, occasionally joined by the elusive and infuriating Jelly.
Finally she reaches the Winterlands, and the fifth exiled tower of the City — the Raven Tower. Here she grasps several more answers to what has befallen her, as well as meeting the spoilt Winter Raven and Twilight Star, the woman she’s been told is her mother.
The story is becoming more and more complicated, with Tanith Lee contradicting herself or twisting character motivations or previously established plot-facts. Characters have several aliases, have lied about past deeds and go about in disguise, making it immensely difficult to keep track of who’s who and what is exactly going on. Furthermore, the big revelation about Claidi’s past and the designs of those calling the shots aren’t really all that imaginative — it is simply personal gratitude and family squabbles that drives these characters — nothing particularly deep or important.
As well as this, Lee has lost the knack of writing in diary-form, something that made the previous books so appealing and realistic. For instance, at one stage, when Claidi is giving a fake name, she writes:
“‘Pattoo,’ I un-cleverly blurted, picking the name of a friend from my slave-maid days.”
The problem is that if you have read the other books, you already know precisely who Pattoo is — so why would Claidi repeat this fact in her diary? The passage is obviously for the benefit of those who have not read the previous books (or need a reminder of who the character is) and therefore comes as written by Tanith Lee to the reader, not as Claidi to her journal. It lends a sense of falseness to the words that are meant to be a private and consistent diary-entry.
At other points Tanith Lee slips into writing in present-tense rather than past-tense, such as:
“Rushing through the avenue. He is around the next turn before I can get there. I mustn’t loose him.”
Such urgency in the writing is lost when we realise that Claidi can’t possibly be writing and chasing after Argul at the same time.
Despite all this, readers who have made their way through the previous books won’t want to give up now. There are more fascinating and beautiful landscapes, including a snow-covered tower in the shape of a raven head, and small titbits of intrigue and detail that create a rich world to explore. Lee’s writing and language remains clear, descriptive and involving, and her quest of self-discovery is interesting enough to continue with into the forth and final book: Wolf Wing.