The Queen is Dead by Kate Locke
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“When her brother Val gets in over his head in an investigation of Half-Blood disappearances and goes missing himself, it’s up to Xandra, newly crowned Goblin Queen, to get him back and bring the atrocities to light. Xandra must frequent the seediest parts of London, while also coping with what she is, the political factions vying for her favor, and the all too-close scrutiny of Queen Victoria, who wants her head. Add this to a being a suspect in a murder investigation, a werewolf boyfriend with demands of his own, and a mother hell bent on destroying the monarchy, and Xandra barely knows which way is up. One thing she does know is that she’s already lost one sibling, she’s not about to lose another.”
In real life, I’m not much for politics, but give me a sci-fi or fantasy novel with some complicated political maneuverings and I’m a happy reader. This book made me very happy indeed. Xandra’s status as the queen of the goblins is a hot point that causes all kinds of machinations to be put into motion. Thus, with her world established in the first book, Locke can concentrate on fleshing out more of how society functions and how the races interrelate.
Xandra is a strong main character, and even though she’s in a romantic relationship (as are so many female leads these days), she doesn’t lean on her partner or let him take over for her. She’s very much a take-charge person, one who’s willing to take risks and stick her neck out for those she cares about. And speaking of romance, I really love how the interactions between Xandra and the Goblin Prince have remained on the level of friendship and mutual respect. It’s not that a relationship between them would be weird or icky, but it is nice to see a male-female friendship that feels natural. I also appreciate the lack of a love triangle as well.
The author takes full advantage of the London setting to frame her story, and it’s the stage on which a lot of action takes place. There are chases and explosions, crowded bars and narrow alleyways, dilapidated buildings and creepy asylums—all of them detailed so well that you can almost smell the smoke and garbage of London’s streets.
The other really neat part about the setting is how the author has extrapolated what our current technology would look like (and what it would be called) if it had been developed in this world. There are still things like cell phones and computers, but they have a distinct air of steampunk style about them. While I sometimes quibble with steampunk’s need to create machinery for its own sake, I think Locke’s gadgets fit in very well. With an immortal queen (and a mostly immortal or long-lived aristocracy), it’s completely within the realm of possibility that the Industrial Revolution’s elements hung around to the present day.
The Queen is Dead is another stellar addition to one of the most imaginative alternate histories on the shelves. Locke leaves no detail unexplored as she draws readers deeper into her vampire and werewolf inhabited London. Vivid settings and interesting characters make this novel one that you won’t want to put down.