The Queen Is Dead (Immortal Empire Series #2)

The Queen Is Dead - Kate Locke Xandra has had a lot of changes in her life – from half-blooded Royal guard to goblin queen. Despite being monarch, she seems to have lost a lot; her family no longer trusts her, she’s lost her job, she’s lost her home, she’s earned the enmity of Queen Victoria herself, she’s become a tabloid sensation – and universally feared. And she still doesn’t know what she wants to be or become – she’s not ready to make those decisions.But she doesn’t have much time to delay, not with her brother going missing, possibly falling victim to the same conspiracy that her mentor was part of; experimenting on unusual half bloods to see if they can be used to increase aristo numbers and tip the balance of power. With her own unprecedented goblinhood and her sister giving birth to a full blooded vampire, her family are prime targets for experimentation.And, of course, Victoria is breathing down her neck, with the police following Xandra trying to find out what happened to her mentor. Being harassed by the police and demonised by the press doesn’t make investigating any easierThis series has one of the most original world settings we’ve come across in Urban Fantasy. The idea of a modern Steampunk – a 21st century world, with the immortal vampire Queen Victoria ruling over it – creates a really fascinating world when it comes to tone theme and aesthetics. We have many of the elements of the modern world and a similar level of technology, but all with a Victorian twist as the elites of the society are still from that era. So we have minidresses – with corsets. The technology is subtly different, there are mores of etiquette in high society that still have to be upheld. Yet all of this is done without a lot of info dumping, this different feel is given with a few descriptions of clothes, the way people talk and different words for things like motorbikes and mobile phones that make it clear what they are while still having a strong hint of a more steampunk aesthetic.There’s a lot of research that has gone into this book making sure that the places visited are very close to actual London with the necessary changes for the setting. I particularly like references to obscure things like the church of St. Andrew by the Wardrobe.There is also a generally good maintenance of tone, keeping the Britishisms intact and the new vocabulary from the setting. Occasionally it does go over the top though – like the details of the geography are very accurate but also long winded and not strictly needed. Or a generally well done Xandra will spout long string of slang and profanity that is just a little excessive and fake – like her Britishness is really trying to be rammed home. I don’t know how noticeable it would be to someone who isn’t English, however.There are a number of POC in this book and a lesbian couple who are just included without fanfare. They may not have a massive role, but they are there and fully integrated without undue comment or inference as well as a natural assumption that they’re going to get married and there’s no issue with that. While they’re background characters to a large degree, they’re refreshingly free from problematic tropes.There’s also Penny, a transwoman. Penny isn’t a background character by any stretch and she plays a pretty major role in the story and is very valued by the whole cast, despite that she is a mixed bag of good points and fail pointsOn the plus side, none of the main characters misgender her or ever question her gender; anyone who does is seen as being extremely out of line and in strong need of a slap. Similarly the transphobia from her father is presented the same way. It’s also clear that her gender is not based on whether she is taking hormones or has had – or is pursuing - surgery or not.Read More