Sunday, May 12, 2019

Queene of Light by Jennifer Armintrout

For the longest time, I didn't get into faerie paranormal romance, because it kind of felt like a cheap way for authors to create an All My Children-esque soap opera of beings that were even more good-looking than ordinary good-looking people and who used magic to do the usual litany of soap opera fillers, including cheating, fucking, murdering, and causing people amnesia. Holly Black's THE CRUEL PRINCE was one of the first faerie books I read that actually gave me the dark machinations I was craving. This book is another.

If you look at the reviews for QUEENE OF LIGHT, they don't inspire a lot of confidence. The average rating for this book is a rather grim 3.37, which sounds good until you take into account that most of the well-loved books on Goodreads have bloated ratings drummed up by bloggers and publicity teams that put "good" books at 4+ star averages. In comparison, QUEENE OF LIGHT seems like it must not be very good, even though that's basically average.

I just finished reading the first book in Armintrout's Blood Ties series, which is about vampires, and it was amazing. I was in the mother of all slumps after finishing it and didn't want to jump into the sequel right away, so I decided to read one of the author's other books to tide me over. They are very different books and it isn't fair to compare them, so of course I'm going to do it anyway. THE TURNING is narrated in first person and is written in the typical (albeit darker) style of the human woman thrust unwillingly into the world of the night, whereas QUEENE OF LIGHT is narrated in third person and is much more immersive; both the hero and the heroine are immortals, residing in a court of immortals, and even though there's a human world and some human characters, humans really aren't the focus here.

QUEENE OF LIGHT is slow to start and a little confusing at first, since there is so much to take in. Ayla is half-Faery, half-human, and works as an assassin for the Lightworld. Humans tore something called the "Astral plane" which kept immortals separate from their world, and humans, being humans, immediately regretted biting off more than they could chew and rather assuming personal accountability (ha), they decide to turn on the immortal creatures and drive them underground, into the sewers. Lightworld is where the Faeries and dragons reside, Darkworld is where things like demons, Death Angels, and vampires live, and there's a neutral zone in between called the "Strip."

Ayla, being an assassin, has more freedom than most Lightworlders and is in the Darkworld fulfilling a bounty for the Queen when she happens upon one of those Death Angels. When they touch an immortal, they drain them of power - but touching a mortal means they assume their mortality themselves and become fallen. That's exactly what happens when Malachi lays hands on Ayla, and ends up having his people turn on him and losing his wings. A kind human finds and rescues him, and Malachi nurses his wounds and his grudge, both, planning revenge.

That doesn't happen obviously, since this is a "romance," and there's a bit of (okay, a lot of) insta-love when he suddenly realizes that the type of fighting he wants to do with Ayla mostly involves a bed. The romance here isn't the best, and in my opinion isn't as well done as that in THE TURNING, but I was willing to be forgiving because the world-building was so good and there's some truly excellent court intrigue in here with plotting on top of plotting, reminiscent of Holly Black's Cruel Prince series. Like THE TURNING, the villain in here is truly excellent. Armintrout writes great villains.

I actually would urge fans of Holly Black's Cruel Prince series to pick this up. It's not as good, but it's the next best thing and makes for some fun, dark reading. The idea of a bunch of faeries packed into a claustrophobic sewer-land is novel and interesting, made more so by murder plots, conspiracies, bounty hunting, and forbidden love. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. You may, too!

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

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