Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Queen's Bastard Review


Book: The Queen's Bastard
Author: C.E. Murphy
Category: Fantasy (Political)
Series: Inheritors Cycle, Book 1
Grade: B+

{A femme fatale (plural: femmes fatales) is an alluring and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetypal character of literature and art.}

I posted previously about Meriam from Rape and Adverbs bringing up the subject of femme fatales. At that point I was yet to read a book featuring a lead female character that fit the mold of a femme fatale. After reading The Queen's Bastard, I have changed my tune.

Belinda Primrose is by all intents and purposes a femme fatale. The definition fits her character perfectly. Belinda, trained to be an assassin from birth, is a woman that uses her wiles to gain political secrecy for her country and unacknowledged mother, The Queen of Aulun, Lorriane. Under the command of her father Robert, Belinda is sent on missions that range from gathering enemy intelligence to killing those who threaten the Queen's throne.

Her most recent mission sends her to Lutetia where she is required to gain information that will prove that Sandalia, the Princess of Lutetia, wants to have Lorraine killed. To gain this information Belinda must align herself with people in high places, and she happens to do that more easily than she had planed by catching the eye of a merchant, Marius. Marius goes on to introduce Belinda to his best friend, the Prince of Luticia - and son of Sandalia - Javier.

Javier is taken with Belinda immediately, he recognizes something in her that he has found in no one outside of himself. An alien power that he refers to as witchbreed. Belinda's witchbreed power was taken from her at a young age when her father (a carrier of the power as well) realized how strong it was. But with the help of Javier, Belinda is able to cultivate her power again, in ways she had never imagined. While Belinda is quickly coming into her witchbreed, she is still on a mission to gain the intelligence that will take Sandalia down.

The Queen's Bastard reads much like a chess game. Each player: a part of the game, working strategically for and against the queen. All vying for a coveted seat at the throne. This aspect alone held enough intrique to keep me turning the pages but the heroine(?) in this book is what made it so interesting.

I mentioned above that Belinda is a femme fatale. 'Tis true. Some of the acts she commits during this book are cruel, and most of them involve the use of her body. A lot of her sexual dominance can be attributed to her coming into her power so quickly. The strength that she gets from it acts also as desire inside of her. Unlike Javier, who was able to come into his power gradually over time, Belinda's came almost from nowhere, and her power appears to stretch further than Javier's is able to. Even still, Belinda used her sexuality far before she came fully into her witchbreed as a means to the information she had to gain.

What I found most fascinating about Belinda is that in spite of some of her actions and cruelty, she is a likeable character. She is somewhat sympathetic. I credit Murphy greatly for this. Writing a female character as strong, confident, and dominant as Belinda, and still making her vulnerable could not have been easy. I appreciated that Belinda never harps on the fact that she is a bastard, and in employ of a mother that will not recognize her as a daughter. Too often a sore spot in a character's life is used as an excuse for their actions. Belinda has no excuses, she is even loyal to the woman who birthed her where many wouldn't be. This made me like her all the more.

Something I wasn't sure about in the beginning of the book was the large host of characters that inhabit the pages. I wondered if they each served a real purpose, and how I would keep them all in order. I was happy to find that each one was bright in their own way. Not one fades to the back of my mind. I can remember each by name, and I remember what their purpose was in the book. With a large cast, I find that commendable.

My only complaint is that the book ended without giving much insight to the witchbreed, other than what we gain from Belinda's assumptions. I would have liked a bit more expansion on the matter, especially after finding out that there is another witchbreed out there with a mother at the throne. That makes three young witchbreed's with Queens' for mothers. Very interesting.

I have been waffling between an A grade and a B. After writing this review I still don't know where I stand with it. I enjoyed the writing, the characters were all drawn remarkably well, and I was left wanting more answers; much like Belinda is at the end of the book. I guess that will have to wait for book 2, The Pretender's Crown. For the first book in the series, grade B+.

Excerpt

13 comments:

  1. Interesting review. i've been eying this book for a while, but I didn't know whether to buy it or not. Tell me, how is the romance in this one? Does she sleep around a lot?

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  2. This is one book I need to get.
    Great review! :D

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  3. Sounds interesting. What would you say the time period is for this book?

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  4. Nath, I wouldn't classify this book as a romance. There is a level of intimacy between Belinda and Javier but both are jaded and act accordingly. If you are looking for a strong romance thread then this wouldn't be a good choice.

    Thanks Katie. I wonder what you will think of it.

    Jill, this setting is something like a late 1500's Alternate Universe Europe.

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  5. Great review, Brie: this sounds compelling and unusual.

    I just went to C E Murphy's website and read the extract, and I am hooked. Thanks for the rec!

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  6. Hi Brie :D I'm not necessarily looking for a strong romance... just a touch is usually enough for me, unless she starts sleeping around a lot. then, I have a problem ^_^; or if there's a love triangle that takes too long to be resolved.

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  7. Hm...

    There is no triangle as of now.

    Belinda uses her power to manipulate people into doing things for her (sexually).

    There is a romantic thread (love?) between her and Javier. But Belinda is business first, and Javier is kinda spoiled so they deny what is between them by turning a blind eye to it.

    This book is very dark, it goes places that may shock some readers and could very well disgust them. Personally, I didn't have a problem with this at all, but I can see where someone might.

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  8. Meriam, I'd love to hear your thoughts when you're done reading.

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  9. Very interesting. I don't think I've ever heard of this book... I don't know how much I'd enjoy dominatrix-ish females.

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  10. Thanks for the review. I've been sort of circling around this book for a while, too! I'm very intrigued that it "goes dark places."

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  11. Alice, the protagonist in this story isn't for every reader. If that's not your cup o tea then I'd pass it up, unless you're intrigued enough to try it out.

    CJ, I hope you give it a try. I know you like fantasy, and this is a good one. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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  12. I haven't read this one but I defintiely want to, it sounds interesting.

    Awesome review, Brie! :)

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  13. I bought this book the other day and started to regret it. Now I think I might just bite the bullet and try it out. Nice review. Thanks for the heads up on it!

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