Book Review: God Save The Queen by Kate Locke

God Save The Queen by Kate LockeOnce again I picked this up in an attempt to find some­thing Gail Carriger-esque. This cer­tainly fits the bill bet­ter than my former attempt. Leaving aside the super­fi­cial sim­il­ar­it­ies (feisty female lead char­ac­ter named Alex-, Scottish alpha were­wolf love interest, pub­lished by Orbit) it fares bet­ter on the humour front. While it can’t match Gail’s writ­ing, it scores points for know­ing when to let go and have some fun. To not take itself too seriously.

While Alexandra and Alexia might share sim­ilar names and cer­tain traits, where they dif­fer is their like­ab­il­ity. Alexandra is par­tic­u­larly frus­trat­ing at times. She’s stub­born and big­oted and you quite often want to tell her to shut up. But she grows dur­ing this book. The events are a learn­ing exper­i­ence for her. She doesn’t come out of the other end a won­der­ful per­son, but she’s cer­tainly bet­ter than she was. And that growth is part of what keeps you reading.

The other part is the plot. It’s no great mas­ter­piece of com­plex plot­ting, but it’s suit­ably mys­ter­i­ous and intriguing. I could see cer­tain things com­ing, and once again wanted to brain Alexandra for not catch­ing on sooner, but it was still deli­cious the way things unfolded.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that detract from these points and drag it down from being a good book to an Ok one.

First up is its set­ting. While I really like the idea that, thanks to an undead Queen Victoria, you end up with a kind of modern-day steam­punk set­ting, I don’t think it’s been prop­erly thought out.  Yes, it makes sense for fash­ions and cus­toms to have remained static, as the per­petu­ation of a class sys­tem dic­tates that such things move top down­wards and the aris­to­cracy are unchanging.

However, none of this is a reason for tech­no­logy to seem­ingly stag­nate. And it’s espe­cially weird that it seems to have mostly stag­nated some­where in the ‘50s. It all seems to have an echo of the kind of steam­punk where it’s about the look rather than the concept. It’s just got gears and clock parts stuck on.

Then there are the atti­tudes presen­ted within. I can handle the class sys­tem and the bigotry dis­played towards other spe­cies races (dif­fer­ent spe­cies can’t repro­duce), as it fits with the nar­rat­ive. But that doesn’t make it an agree­able trait for your prot­ag­on­ist to have.

But more egre­gious is the entire book’s atti­tude to men­tal health. I’m not sure if it’s try­ing to echo a Victorian atti­tude or if it’s just really not been thought through. I found myself very uncom­fort­able read­ing pas­sages where “men­tal” was thrown around with impun­ity (used to describe almost every char­ac­ter as well as vari­ous situ­ations). It seemed par­tic­u­larly cringe­worthy that this is a world where they’ve come up with a cutesy word (“hat­ters”) as an every­day way of talk­ing about ser­i­ous men­tal illness.

On another lan­guage front, this seems to be very much a book writ­ten by an American, for Americans. Less research seems to have been put into mak­ing it seem authen­tic­ally British as was put into com­ing up with a pseudo-scientific explan­a­tion for vam­pir­ism and lyc­an­thropy (top tip: adding made-up sci­ence just serves to under­mine your ideas. The more you explain, the more holes that appear). There’s a list over on my Tumblr. Some are petty, some are cringe­worthy, one man­ages to make the men­tal health issue seem inconsequential.

Finally: don’t come up with new swear words/curses unless you’ve got some­thing really good. Gorram works. Smeghead works. “Fang me” is try­ing too hard. Especially if you’re going to be using actual swear words anyway.

That’s pretty long, isn’t it? To sum up: either a good book dragged down by vari­ous errors, or a badly researched setup saved by a decent plot and a good char­ac­ter arc.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

One thought on “Book Review: God Save The Queen by Kate Locke

  1. Please, God, no, not another reviewer get­ting hung up over a book not being polit­ic­ally cor­rect enough. Even though, as you say, the time-frame seems to be the 50’s, every­one is sup­posed to have all our mod­ern sens­ib­il­it­ies when it comes to the men­tally ill. Why? Seriously, have you read a lot a books that were actu­ally writ­ten in the 50’s and before? If you ever do,and this offen­ded you, get ready to be REALLY offended. ;)

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