Thursday, January 31, 2013

Where nobility is concerned, conspiracies run deep

Most vampire and werewolf mythologies assume that these creatures have been in existence for millenia. In fact, the origins of these creatures is generally not addressed at all; it is simply taken for granted that they exist and the narrative moves on.

In God Save the Queen by Kate Locke, this vampire, werewolf and goblin issue is a relatively recent development. Having dealt with the Black Plague time and again over the centuries, the immune systems of humans, especially nobility, have adapted in strange ways. As explained in the 'Understanding the Aristocracy' appendix, the two variants of this adaptive ''Prometheus Gene' can cause either vampirism or werewolf traits when two copies of the same variant is possessed.Having one set of either gene gives the person some of the physical benefits, such as increased strength and stamina. And possessing one of each gene creates a monster that is discarded by civilization. Thankfully, due to extensive gene typing, these accidents are quite rare.

Alexandra Vandry is a Halfsie. She's the daughter of a member of the Aristocracy and a courtesan selected for her ability to produce viable Halfsie offspring. Although she is not a member of the Aristocracy herself, she and children like her are raised with some of the benefits of the upper class. Xandry and her half-siblings were sent to school, and eacht ook a job as part of the security for the Crown and other nobles. 

God Saves the Queen begins with a death. Xandry's sister Dede, declared mad after the death of her baby, has been found dead by the officials of the asylum. And although the rest of the family is all too ready to mourn the death of their sister, Xandry refuses to believe that Dede would have killed herself.

As she investigates the whereabouts of Dede in the days leading up to her commitment, the threads holding together Xandry's life begin to unravel. Those she has leaned on her entire life are cast into doubt, and the Goblins that are feared by every right-thinking citizen come to her aid. Xandry will need to decide who she trusts: her family, friends and teachers, or a band of outsiders and traitors to the Crown.

Locke makes a valiant effort to bring this new mythology into the 21st century. It makes perfect sense that a nation ruled by centuries-old beings would be quite traditional in its fashions and societal norms. It also makes sense that technologies such as DNA sequencing and immunology would be more relevant in this alternate timeline and would be more advanced than we have now. The only flaw in this is that it's hard to tell exactly which segments of modern technology are actually present and what names they are given. This is a common flaw in many alternate timeline series, and while frustrating is accepted as par for the course.

In short, God Save the Queen is a fanciful new take on the vampire/werewolf mythos and a charming addition to the 'bustlepunk' subgenre of steampunk. One also assumes that the world in which the story takes place will only be more fully defined in subsequent books. This is an entertaining story that leaves the reader eagerly anticipating the next volume.

Highs: The betrayals, reversals and revelations come fast and furious at times, but are always believable and founded in some sort of pre-established fact.

Lows: The odd combination of current-day technology with the Victorian overlay can be confusing at times, as can the rather convoluted bloodlines.

Verdict: Hardly the epitome of alternative history or supernatural fiction, nonetheless, this is an enjoyable, engaging fiction.

Further Reading: The Queen is Dead, Soulless

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