Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

long may she reign

3 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this book.

Freya is an unimportant noble who spends more time in her lab, occasionally blowing things up. Suddenly, most of the elite in the kingdom are poisoned and Freya is the Queen. She REALLY doesn’t want to do it, but enemies start lining up and it looks like she will have to quickly seize power if she wants to survive. Now she is surrounded by the few remaining survivors and has to figure out who poisoned everyone before they come for her.

This fell really flat for me. Partly because I was set up for something a bit more fantasy-ish, where there was some element of magic. This actually did not have very much fantasy in it whatsoever, besides the setting being a make-believe kingdom. Freya is a scientist and eventually solves the whodunit using her crafty chemistry knowledge. There is no magic in this book, despite explicitly being marketed as one, and the plot revolves around science. I guess I found the combination of fantasy setting and early chemistry one that did not jive well.

This also very quickly devolved into a mystery, peppered with Freya’s adaptation to the new role that has been thrust upon her. She is trying to juggle being queen with also being a crime solving sleuth, and neither role fits her well. It could be a cool premise, but just did not work here. Not enough time was spent exploring her experience of either role, so it comes off as being a shallow exploration of both experiences. Freya tries to find her feet as queen without being overshadowed by her advisors at the same time she is carving out time to hunt murderers. It feels like I did not get enough time with her either as queen or detective to really get to know her and start to like her. The entire book was a lot of exposition and not enough character.

The mystery part of this book wasn’t the best done mystery I have ever read. They lined up the suspects (pretty much every character) and went investigating, but it seemed like, after a couple of clues, the mystery was already over and the villain was rounded up. There was a clever twist (no spoilers!) but overall it seemed foreshortened and a little simplistic. I was expecting a tense, drawn out mystery riddled with clues and surprises, and I think this fell short of that. Part of it was the previously mentioned problem of too much content around Freya being queen, but I still think it could have been a more interesting, meandering route to get to the finish and solve the mystery.

Overall, this book was a somewhat confusing mess of genres, with not enough focus to make it a really satisfying read. Pick it up if you have some spare time and read quickly, but there are better books that have been published this year.

Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

revenge and the wild

3 out of 5

Cannibals and the Wild West mixed with magic. Yeehaw!

Westie has spent all of her life searching for the family of cannibals that slaughtered her mother, father and brother and ate one of her arms. She has been outfitted with a mechanical arm invented by her step-father Nigel, and is joined in many of her misadventures by Nigel’s assistant Alistair (who has had his throat ripped out by cannibals), and her magic-wielding, native friend. As a side plot, magic is being drained out of the land and Nigel has invented a machine that will put it back, but he is hard-pressed to find investors.

My main bone of contention with this book is just how much it had going on. You had Westie’s thing with the cannibals’, Nigel’s thing with the magic, various romances happening, and a whole bunch of werewolves and vampires sprinkled on top of everything. Some authors are able to take radically different genres and mash them together, but this time it didn’t work so well. I would have loved to read about Westie and Alistair hunting cannibals OR I would have loved to hear about a down on his luck inventor trying to save magic and hunt down financial backing OR I would have loved an old-west story with vampires and werewolves and other mythological creatures. Put all together it just gets too busy.

Part of the busyness is just too many characters that are not being explored deeply enough. We learn Westie is fiesty and the vampire she is interested in is seductive and Alistair is shy and the society boy she is interested in is kind of arrogant, but it does not go a lot deeper than that. Inner dialogue and characterization are glossed over to get to more action, but because of that we never really get deep motivations for anything. Yes, Westie hates cannibals because they ate her parents, but I really didn’t get a sense of the deep hurt and anguish this caused. Nigel rescued her and repaired her arm, but their relationship is never fully developed. None of them are.

Westie also jumps from romantic attachment to romantic attachment with barely a flinch. There are 3 different love interests, but we know them so little and Westie herself seems to care so little is less a romantic interlude than a tedious side plot that interrupts all the other plots going on.

That being the main criticism, it is a neat world. Steampunk mixes with Western mixes with Fantasy somewhat tensely, but I am glad someone tried it. This book definitely has a “shoot from the hip, walk into a saloon and order a whisky, tumbleweed on the prairies” feel to it that is hard to find in fantasy and Steampunk books. It is an imaginative take on 3 things that don’t usually collide.

I would give this one a try just for the novelty, but it is not something I am likely to revisit again. Also, the cannibalism made me a little queasy. Just a warning!