This is book two in the series, so if you haven’t read the first book, or my first review, I suggest doing that beforehand. I try not to write too many spoilers, but it may happen.
The books are told from Xandra Vardan’s point of view, so it is a direct continuation on the last novel. Xandra is still in mourning over her sisters murder, only to hear that her older brother has gone missing.
This is where I might get a little spoilery. After Xandra, and the world, realized she was in fact not half-vampire, but full blooded goblin, it was hard to determine was was just happening around her and what was happening because of her. Looking into her brothers disappearance she finds out he was taken by plague “betties” (humans that inject themselves with plague blood to become faster and stronger, but also start dying of the black death quickly). Investigating further leads her to an illegal horror show that might be linked to the group that ran tests on her maternal sister, and her boyfriend’s now deceased son.
The rest of the story lines are to do with Xandra coming to terms with being a goblin, and the unofficial Queen of the goblins. I spoke a bit in the last review about the MATURITY of the situations, and how Locke doesn’t use blatantly stupid angst to spur on her stories. When Xandra and Vex argue or fight, they tell their sides, figure it out, and move past. The story isn’t hinged on their relationship, so they don’t have to use tropy devices to keep it going. When Vex has something to say, whether it polite or not, he says it, and Xandra listens, thinks about it, and then replies. Half the time with “he was right, and I needed to hear it”. This book isn’t a masterpiece, its a bit of fun adventurous fluff, but Locke has moved past tropes that are used in every source of media. It gives me hope that we can stop writing and creating those levels of angsty bullshit and move into writing real people with real, mature, human reactions.
Another thing about this book that makes me incredibly happy is her reference to LGBTQ issues. Xandra found out about her brother Val’s disappearance through Val’s maternal sibling. Born Takeshi, Penny is now Val’s younger sister. Penny is transgendered. And a big part of the second book. My only irk with this subject, and I think it was done because of the time period, but Penny is referred to as a “transvestite”.
But, on the other hand, it does lead into an interesting issue I hadn’t realized before. The black plague happened in the UK, not the rest of the world. So this has only happened over seas. They get American tourists who use modern terms like “motorcycle” instead of the UK’s “motorrad”. Without the World Wars there wouldn’t have been a lot of cultural and technological developments that there are today, so what would the Western world look like? Also leads me to think that because of their old terminologies, they haven’t advances in terms of gender issues, language wise. Xandra loves Penny like a sister, and she explains wonderfully how Penny is just a girl stuck in a boy’s body. And basically, Xandra will fight (and probably eat) anyone who refers to Penny as a boy …or anything more insulting. I can’t speak enough about how much I like these characters.
It is a fast, quick-paced, exciting read. The world Locke created is fascinating and the more that is revealed, the more it really makes you think.