Friday, September 12, 2008

Book review: The Queen's Bastard by C.E. Murphy

The Queen's Bastard is an alternate universe historical fantasy, lying very close to 1500s European politics but thrilling with sex and magic.

Belinda Primrose is the antihero[ine], a young woman raised by her father to be a spy and an assassin in the service of her unacknowledged mother, Lorraine, Regent Queen of Aulun. From a very young age, Belinda has shown a facility for prepossession and dissembling; she assassinated her first man at the age of twelve. Now, however, Belinda has been set on a difficult job: to infiltrate a rival kingdom and get close enough to its regent, Sandalia, to prove a plot against Lorraine.

Belinda is more than up for the task but complications ensue, as they will do. As she reaches adulthood, a mysterious and magical power has emerged - witchlight - and with it Belinda can read minds, manipulate people and render herself invisible. Pretty nifty tricks for a spy. But the other complication is this: a passionate affair with Sandalia's son, Javier - who just happens to be a witch in secret as well.

I named Belinda an antiheroine above and I think it's apt nomenclature. She's not a good person although she commits her conniving and murderous acts out of an overwhelming sense of duty to her queen and her father. She enjoys the feelings of passion and power that she wrests from her newfound witchery, and yet becomes torn between loyalty and lust/love. She is willing and able to subject others to torment and degradation - but she has been molded to do so by her father, born, bred and trained. Belinda is neither honorable nor nice, but she's conflicted and evolving, and that makes for a compelling character - and a story that will probably bring me back for the next installment in the series.

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