God Save the Queen is junk, but it’s fun junk. 3.5 stars really. It reads sort of like a Janet Evanovich novel, not terribly well-written but entertaining because of some interesting characters and narrative possibilities. In a world where vampires and werewolves are in charge (Queen Victoria is one of said vampires), goblins run the underworld (literally), and humans are viewed with suspicion (because they hate the monsters and half-breeds), of course Xandra the half-breed daughter of an aristocrat would discover something unusual about herself (she’s special, and no one told her, but some people knew), and uncovers a global conspiracy that she will either destroy or be taken down herself. Naturally, there’s also Vex, a hot werewolf boyfriend with a dumb name (he can cook), and the goblins may not be as bad as they seem (their prince is oddly helpful to Xandra especially), and of course the family members thought dead may or may not actually be dead, and the seemingly all-powerful mentor has a nasty secret.
As entertaining as the supernatural predictability is, there are a few things that bothered me. Xandra is a standard heroine in that she’s a pretty good fighter, but sometimes needs a little tlc from friends and family. This is fine, but what bothers me is how mad she gets at people for keeping big secrets from her, and them getting put out when her brother and sister get upset with her for keeping big secrets from them. That’s just irritating to see that kind of hypocracy in a character who’s supposed to be a heroine. Pettiness is irritating from anyone, but especially so when it’s supposed to be the heroine. Get over yourself already, and go save the world.
The other issue I have may just have to do with the timing at which I encountered the book. In Xandra’s world, there are women kept as courteseans to be used to produce children for he aristocrats; many of these women are human, and none of the aristocrats are. By definition, to be an aristocrat, you have to be vampire, or on a slightly lesser level, a werewolf. This is normal and Xandra and everyone else, including most of the women themselves, are fine with it. There are a few passing mentions of the aristocrats having wives as well, and the wives don’t seem to like the fact that their husbands have children with other women. Xandra makes a point of feeling a little insulted when her father’s wife is a little cold towards her and her siblings. Given the publicity and renewed interest received by Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale of late, this aspect of Xandra’s world really bothered me. It’s pretty clear that the tension between races is meant as minor social commentary, but the use of human courteseans for the purposes of expanding the aristocracy really rubbed me the wrong way; I’m surprised it doesn’t bother Xandra, given what happens to one of her sisters who gets involved with an aristocrat, and things don’t go well.
I’m definitely going to get my hands on the other two volumes, but I’m hoping the fun doesn’t’ get ruined by any attempts at deep social commentary. Just leave it to Atwood; there’s virtually no beating that.