Xandra, Goblin Queen, is coming more and more accustomed to being a goblin and even staring down Victoria (or sniping at her across the table) but even as her life grows more stable the city and the country succumbs to more and more unrest. There’s a movement led by Xandra’s own mother to depose the aristocracy, some vampire aristocrats are gunning for the Queen, the human masses are rising up violently – and under it all the brutal, horrific experimentations continue in secret laboratories on half-bloods; inflaming all factions.
Into this powder keg a creature is released – she looks a lot like Xandra but is even more dangerous. But who was she created to target? Xandra? Victoria? Or just causing mayhem? As anger on the street grows and the hunt for the monster grows more pressing, Xandra has to play politician and diplomat to try and bring the country back from the edge of civil war.
This plot grabbed me and held me – even though it took me to the edge of cringing several times, it also backed off every time. I kept thinking “no, she’s going to play mummy and ignore the danger!” or “no she’s going to risk everyone for this creature!” And it didn’t happen. She was sympathetic – but she wasn’t a fool. The plot itself had twist within twist – ok, I knew who the big bad was pretty early (he wasn’t exactly subtle – or, rather, he was subtle but it was such a classic trope) but who was working with him, why and, ultimately, what his end game was remained a mystery right until the end. With Xandra’s father, the Queen, her mother, her sister and so many other figures constantly stepping into the shade as possible accomplices – then out then back in again it was a mystery to see who Xandra could trust and who it would finally be who turned on her in the end.
The action was exciting, the intrigue was deep without being confusing and the twists were twisting indeed all working extremely well with this setting which I love so much
I love Xandra’s growth as a character – her growing acceptance of being a goblin and not just that she is a goblin but her place in goblin society, her growing affection and ties to the other goblins and their practices. It’s amazing how a book can present its protagonist starting to eat human flesh and it still be read as an excellent moment of character growth and self-acceptance. Yes, I cheered the cannibalism! Beyond the goblins, Xandra is accepting her role as aristocrat and a leader and even slowly expands her viewpoint beyond her people to the country as a whole. I love her transition between wanting to keep her people and loved ones safe (and viewing Victoria as a threat) to slowly seeing the wider societal problems that are tearing the country up (and viewing Victoria as an important ally, even if they still don’t get on). There’s a definite shift in Xandra, a lot of growth – but still that fierce loyalty that characterised her more than anything.