The Story: God Save the Queen by Kate Locke is the first book in the Immortal Empire trilogy. In this installment, readers are introduced to Xandra Vardan, a member of the Royal Guard, who is commissioned with protecting the aristocracy. But this is not your grandmother’s England: vampires, werewolves, goblins, and half-bloods (along with humans) all vie for control and Xandra finds herself in the thick of a brewing conspiracy. When her hunt for a missing person lands her in the middle of a blood war that weaves its way to the throne, Xandra finds she must choose sides and uncover her own destiny.
My Take: God Save the Queen had some serious potential for me with a Victorian setting, cool heroine, and some interesting (though sometimes overwhelming) world-building. But it never quite rose to the level of goodness it could have been. I had to force myself to finish it, which is never a good sign. Judging by the awesome cover, I assumed this novel would be steampunk with a Goth edge, but it’s actually urban fantasy in an alternative history setting. Which is cool, but I felt like the backdrop appealed to me more than the actual story.
First, the peoples populating this landscape bled together (no pun intended) and I had to keep reminding myself what a halvie was, how a goblin was made, etc. This is an interesting mix of characters but other than the threat of a goblin attack, none of the other paranormal beings seemed genuinely threatening. Likewise, apparently some of these creatures came as the result of a plague though, again, this fact seems to recede into the background and mingle with the rest of the world-building. Speaking of which, the world-building feels a bit sloppy but actually takes up precedence over the plot. All of the elements were there to make a compelling story, but without a sturdy plot to affix them to, they were simply there, hanging out and just chillin’.
To be fair, Xandra is a fun character – she’s spunky, resourceful, and brave but not particularly memorable. Likewise, I had a difficult time placing her age: Xandra has grown-up responsibilities and seems a bit too clever to be a teen, yet most of the times she talked like a teen (albeit a very foul-mouthed one). So the confusion on age caused me to mentally distance myself as I wasn’t sure exactly how to view Xandra.
Was she an adult? If so, she really needed to grow up some times. Was she a teen? Goodness – what would your mother say with all of that language? Not mention shacking up with some aristocrat you hardly know.
Xandra is also a bit of a trope, in this case the plucky/brassy heroine. There is nothing wrong with that but she was placed into a plot that seemed almost non-existent. Actually, I sensed this novel wanted to be many things – mystery, urban fantasy, paranormal, even dystopia in a way. But it never truly took on any of these forms or became a solid hybrid. Instead, it wasn’t until I was well past chapter three (normally my stopping point if a story doesn’t grab me) that I finally saw some kind of over-arching plot. Granted, the hook in the novel (i.e. what is so special about Xandra) was intriguing, but by the time it came to the big reveal, I had already lost interest. This hook was supposed to be the driving force of the plot, I think, but it was more like a sub-plot and, hence, didn’t pull its weight.
If you want to know what is so special about Xandra…
I have to admit that I do think making Xandra a half-blooded goblin was interesting because normally when you think of half-bloods in paranormal novels (or at least I do), you usually think someone is going to be half-vampire or half-werewolf, never half-goblin. So I’ll give the novel a few creativity points for that. But having Xandra turn out to be the goblin queen? Ehh…that was a little far-fetched for me. What lady wants to don a crown of bones? But maybe that’s just me.
Okay, back in spoiler-free mode!
Another issue I had was that the characters try way too hard to sound British. I mean way, way too hard. I’m an American but I’ve read my fair share of British writers from a mix of genres and periods, and none of them toss in “bloody” and “bollocks” on almost every page. The dialogue in God Save the Queen came across like an American parody. To be fair, if I was British, I don’t think I would find it insulting; it was just a weak attempt to emulate a British voice and style. And it got really annoying.
To sum it all up, God Save the Queen was a big disappointment. Sure, there were a few bright moments, even cool moments, but they were muddled by a dragging plot and complicated world-building. Likewise, the blurb on the back that advises readers to “Keep Calm and Pray for Dawn” makes the internal contents sound cool. But they just come across as your average, run-of-the-mill urban fantasy with a character troupe as a leading lady.
Language – Aside from invented profanities (such as, most notably, “Fang me”) and real British obscenities, there is frequent PG-13 to R-level language. Most of which comes from Xandra’s mouth. Where’s the soap when you need it?
Violence – Surprisingly, most of the violence isn’t depicted with graphic details though some discussions regarding the activities of vampires, goblins, and the like delve into some rather frank matters (such as blood-drinking and flesh-eating).
Sexual Material – As mentioned earlier, Xandra and a male aristocrat do sleep together though their trysts are never detailed. Likewise, there is a glimpse into a “freak show” where participants engage in amorous activities while consuming blood. This particular scene avoids graphic details but there is no question that sex and violence are clearly being depicted side-by-side. Lastly, some sexual-related dialogue is present, including slang.
God Save the Queen is escapism for adults only but it’s mediocre escapism at best. While I didn’t hate this novel, I was left feeling like this…
It frustrated me so much because the ingredients were there but they just weren’t arranged or used to my liking. For die-hard urban fantasy fans looking for a book that does, to its credit, have a fun main character, this might be your kind of romp. Just don’t expect too much out of it. You’ll be left bloody disappointed.
See? I can use British cuss words, too.