Friday, October 26, 2012
God Save the Queen
It's 2012 and Queen Victoria still rules England with an iron fist due to the mix of disease and genetics that creates vampires. Only aristocrats can be vampires, half-vampires, or goblins due to their genetics and experience extremely long lives, a stronger constitution, inhuman strength and sense, an abhorrence to light, the list goes on. Xandra Vardan is a halvie and a member of the prestigious Royal Guard. She has set records in her schooling using her exceptional strength and speed and believes wholeheartedly that the aristocrats need their protection against the treacherous, vermin-like humans. Then her sister dies, but she knows that her sister has really gone missing. Her quest to find her sister plunges her into a plot that will turn her world upside down.
God Save the Queen is a unique steampunk novel in that it takes place in an alternate present day where Queen Victoria is still alive. This idea results in a world wherea version modern day technology is meshed with Victorian fashion, style, sensibility, and mentality. Both fashion and technology are permanently stunted because the country is led by one really old woman who knows what she likes. There are some changes and advances, but are much more slow moving because the aristocracy is basically immortal. Women are still wearing bustles, corsets, and the like. Hysteria is a common diagnosis for female behavior. Cell phones and computers exist, but not in the same way they do now. It just feels less developed and more clunky, like modern technology through a steampunk lens. Cylinders are used to store audio and video files and cell phones still have rotary dials. Science has also progressed and plays a large role in the novel. Historical figures from the past 175 years are still walking around and looking pretty good for their age, like Winston Churchill. The only thing I think is out of place is the acceptance of homosexual relationships. It's not even fully accepted currently, so I don't think a stunted, decidedly old world would fare any better.
Another aspect of the society I love is the disease. The plague mixed with the aristocratic genetics creates either vampires, half vampires, or goblins. (The same is true for werewolves.) The plague mixed with run of the mill commoner genes results in death. Upward mobility is now impossible for humans because of their genes. This clear distinction and huge difference between classes makes tensions run extremely high. The Great Insurrection of 1932 made matters worse when humans tried to overthrow and eradicate the aristocracy, but they failed, leaving both factions bitter and angry. Both are typically prejudiced of each other except for an underground faction where a few can work together. I love this system. It makes for great political intrigue and just a fascinating new world.
The characters are pretty awesome. Xandra is a hot head and throws herself wholeheartedly into everything she does. This fiery red head is strong and completely prejudiced against humans. She loves her family and will fight to the end for any them. Her sense of justice and familial fealty are huge parts of her character and change over time. I love seeing this world through her eyes. Throughout the novel, her prejudices and preconceptions change as she sees the truth. I honestly can't get enough of her humor and sarcasm. Vex is her lover and the leader of the werewolves. Werewolves are usually awful and obnoxiously alpha male and abusive. Vex is the opposite. He's quite sweet and the romance between him and Xandra is both steamy and tender. He manages to be protective and strong without being condescending or overbearing. He is the best male interest I have seen in a while.
I can't get enough of this vibrant world that merges the present day with the Victorian era. I like that science and technology can be an integral part of a magical fantasy world, showing that science fiction and fantasy can support each other and produce amazing results. In a growing genre, God Save the Queen manages to stand out in the crowd of steampunk. The only flaw is the beginning takes a little while to gain momentum. There is a little too much time before anything really happens. I eagerly await the next installment of the series.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins