Author: Jane Kindred
Series: book one of The House of Arkhangel’sk
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication Date: 6 December 2011
The Fallen Queen for purchase on The Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
I’m making my zomgIhavesomuchbooklovethatIamthiscloset
THE FALLEN QUEEN is sort of a retelling of the Anastasia escape story1, emphasis on sort of. Anazakia is the youngest daughter of the ruling family of Heaven, and an angel who has little patience for social niceties. She often sneaks away to gamble with demons, trusting in a spell that splits her into two parts to help her avoid familial detection. Her true-self can slum it while her shade attends the interminable parties her parents insist are oh-so important.
Luckily, her true-self is away when her possessed cousin slaughters the whole family, so her shade is killed in her place. Also luckily for her, she happens to be gambling with a demon who specializes in getting folks out of Heaven--ie, into our world. Belphagor and his partner, Vasily, initially see Anazakia as little more than a meal ticket, but their relationship quickly becomes complicated.
Complicated and awesome.
Please refer to my silly zomgbooklove face.
I loved THE FALLEN QUEEN for many reasons, but the relationships top the list--and said relationships rest firmly on the characters, who are a complex and interesting bunch. Anazakia’s strong first person narration drew me in from the get-go. Her voice is rich and compelling, imbued with wonderful depth of feeling. She's an easy character to relate to and care for, despite her shortcomings. Belphagor and Vasily2 come to us in the third person, yet their stories are no less intense, their characters no less enthralling. I quickly became enamoured of the ways the three of them meshed as the two demons struggled to keep Anazakia safe and deal with some hefty past transgressions. Kindred delivers the perfect mix of overt backstory and telling interaction. It's gorgeous and absorbing and utterly impossible to tear oneself away from.
She provides a nice level of sexual diversity, too. Belphagor is gay, Vasily is bi and Anazakia is hetero (at least so far). They encounter a variety of other gay, bi and hetero people, as well as an asexual fellow. It’s an inclusive, no-apologies approach--and hey, there’s also a fair measure of BDSM in the mix! Colour me happy.
And the world building... my friends, it’s a thing of beauty. I suppose my predilection for all things Russian biased me towards the place, but I just couldn’t get enough of Heaven’s pseudo-czarist splendor. I loved the many the connections between Heaven and the historical Russia we all know. The scenes in which Anazakia discovers her family’s eerie similarity to the Romanovs remain particular favourites.
I’m also enamoured of the way Kindred turns the portal fantasy trope on its head by placing characters from a secondary world into our own. I’m sure I must have read previous novels that utilize a similar structure, but I can’t recall a single title3. In hindsight, I suppose Kindred could have explored Anazakia's culture shock in a little more depth, but that's a minor quibble. For the most part, the dual-world integration is smooth and nicely done.
Y'all, I loved the whole package sooooo much! You can bet I’ll read the sequel as soon as it’s available in early 2012.
More like this, please.
4 stars - loved it
Bibliophilic Book Blog
Books Without Any Pictures
Urban Fantasy Investigations (also includes a guest post)
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Back In the Day:
- One Year Ago: Rakes and Radishes by Susanna Ivves
- Two Years Ago: The Sunday Salon: Hold That Book
- Three Years Ago: nada
- Which, for the record, was my favouritest of favourite historical conundrums when I was a kid. I watched something like six million documentaries about it. (Okay, it was more like three. It felt like a lot, though, especially since I usually chased ‘em with a film or two on the possible location of Noah’s Ark. Historical conundrums: I loves ‘em.) Said documentaries freaked me out, but I just couldn’t tear myself away. Not even when I got to the bit about how the duchesses took forever and a day to die because the bullets, then the bayonets, ricocheted off the jewels sewn into their gowns and corsets.
What a delightful mental image.
I also learned about earprints from my Anastasia documentaries. Did you know that your earprint is as distinctive as your fingerprint? I watched a film in which researchers tried to ID that one old lady who claimed to be Anastasia by comparing her earprint to a photograph of the Grand Duchess, but the results were inconclusive. They thought it might be a match, but it was tough to say on account of the picture quality and the fact that your ears keep on growing until the day you die. The old lady’s ears were quite a bit bigger than Photo Anastasia’s.
Years later, when CSI did an earprint episode, I felt all smug because I knew what was coming. Historical conundrums aren’t just fun and games. They teach you things so you can eventually get one up on your favourite corny TV shows.
- I’m biased towards people named Vasily. (See: Vasilly. She's awesome, extra L and all.) I’m also biased towards redheads (see: Ikindahaveathingforredheads [which I’m still in the process of fleshing out as a tag]) and people with dreadlocks.
Vasily is named Vasily (duh), he’s a redhead, and he has dreadlocks. Guess who my favourite character was.
Sidebar: if you didn’t have to cut them out when you get tired of them, I’d totally have dreads. Back in highschool, I had this dreadlock pact with a couple of friends. We were gonna be the dreadlock triplets. It would’ve been legendary. Well, except for the part where we sucked at the follow-through.
Now I just admire dreadlocks from afar. I once saw a guy with truly amazing dreads, a couple of which fell to his ankles. I wanted to go up and tell him how impressed I was, but I felt weird so I didn’t.
- I’m equally sure some of y'all will comment to say you can’t believe I forgot [insert awesome fantasy here]. I will, of course, reply to your comment by slapping my forehead and declaring myself a dolt for forgetting [insert awesome fantasy here]; which, of course, I’ve read and loved (or at least heard of).
In fact, I've already thought of a couple of minor examples. In Neil Gaiman's STARDUST, the inhabitants of Faerie pass into the human world at regular intervals for their market, though they don't seem to go further afield than the town of Wall. In THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW by C.S. Lewis, Jadis spends a memorable afternoon in London. And in THE SILVER CHAIR, also by Lewis, Caspian gets a few treasured minutes in merry old England.
Those really are minor instances, though. Can any of you think of cases where a secondary world character spends a fair measure of time in our own world?