God Save the Queen (The Immortal Empire)
by Kate Locke
Cover Artist: Photo: House of Indulgence
Review by Gayle Surrette
Orbit Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316196123
Date: 03 July 2012 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
God Save the Queen by Kate Locke doesn't waste any time getting into the action. It opens with Xandra Vardan going down to talk to the goblin prince to find out about her sister, Drusilla, because the goblins know everything that happens in London. Her gift is accepted and she manages to leave knowing her sister is in the one place that is even more frightening than the underdark of the goblins -- Bedlam.
In spite of the information on the back of the book telling me that this was London, 2012, I got the impression it was the early 1800s until we returned to the surface and Xandra joined her world. The plague killed many people, but many were changed to vampires and werewolves, and some remained human. The vampires and werewolves are the Aristocracy, and then there are the humans and goblins. It's 2012 and Victoria has been ruling for 175 years. Albert is dead but the world goes on. It's our world but very different with a feel of steampunk Victorian Era to it but with magic, cars, cell phone and computer analogues. The worldbuilding is fabulous -- multi-faceted and alive with politics, trade, and the everyday/everynight bustle of life and undead.
Xandra is a member of the Royal Guard. The RG is responsible for guarding the queen and all aristos. Her sisters, Dee and Avery, work for the Peerage Protectorate and they guard specific aristocrats. Her brother, Val, works in the Special Branch of Scotland Yard that deals with vampires and werewolves. Since the 1932 rebellion, the various groups get along, at least on the surface, but there's always a need for security. There's no one better to provide such security than halvies -- those with only part of a plague gene who can work in the daylight as well as night and have more strength and speed than a human.
It's Xandra's missing sister, Dee, that propels her to look beyond the status quo that she's grown up and accepted without question. As she investigates Dee's disappearance and later death, she realizes that more is going on than her personal grief and anger with a sister but that things are not as they seemed. Xandra finds her world turned upside down and doesn't know who to trust as those she confides in disappear or turn up dead -- dead dead not undead dead.
Locke's characters are jump off the page real -- they're developed and act according to their roles and the world they live in. The setting and cultural divisions keep things rolling along as Xandra tries to untangle her background and understand the present and what that means to the future.
I highly recommend God Save the Queen for fans of alternate history as well as those who enjoy steampunk but want something a bit different. This is truly a book to sink your teeth into.