Audiobook Review: The Queen’s Gambit by Jessie Mihalik
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Romance, Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of Rogue Queen
Publisher: Tantor Audio (May 31, 2019)
Length: 4 hrs and 14 mins
Narrator: Rachel Dulude
Sometimes you just need a break with something fun. Earlier this year, I had a great time with Jessie Mihalik’s Polaris Rising, a sci-fi romance featuring fast-paced action and political intrigue with just the right amount of hot, sexy passion. Needless to say, when an opportunity came up to check out the audiobook of The Queen’s Gambit—a novella which began life as a free serialized project on the author’s website but is now available in a single collected volume—I leaped at the chance. After falling into a bit of a reading slump this past week, I was also in the mood for something lighter to pick me up, and this looked like it would do the trick.
It all began with a rescue mission. Or at least, that had been the original plan. Samara is a young queen who had until recently kept her Rogue Coalition out of the greater conflict in the war between the Quint Confederacy and the Kos Empire, preferring to stay out of the fight in order to protect her people. But with both sides refusing to trade with neutral sectors, the new conditions have forced Samara to consider more drastic action, or else the entire Coalition will starve.
Knowing that the Kos emperor is currently being held in Quint custody and that his people will pay handsomely to get him back, Samara devises a bold and dangerous plan to break him out. But infiltrating the Quint mercenary forces wouldn’t be easy. And as it turns out, the emperor, the handsome and charismatic Valentin Kos, isn’t anything she expected either. For one thing, he’s not the cold and callous tyrant he is purported to be, making it difficult for Samara to do what must be done to save her people.
Having now read both Polaris Rising and The Queen’s Gambit, I can definitely see similar elements of the author’s style in each story, and the books also feature many of the same themes and ideas. Samara is a headstrong, kick-ass heroine who isn’t afraid to risk her life for the causes and people she cares about. She also has a good heart, offering her Rogue Coalition as a haven for all the galaxy’s unwanted. Does this make her character a little too hokey and unrealistic, a bit of a “Mary Sue” sometimes? Sure. But for a light, jaunty read like this, I wasn’t going to be too picky. Likewise, Valentin Kos was an interesting and likeable romantic interest for Samara, if at times also just a tad too idealistic, but at least their romance didn’t overwhelm the rest of the plot, and I liked that it didn’t distract too much from the action.
Due to the short length of this story, I also wasn’t expecting too much depth from the plot. All I wanted was something light and entertaining, and in these areas, The Queen’s Gambit most certainly delivered. That said, there were moments that surprised me. World-building was more detailed and developed than expected, for instance. As well, I was impressed with the complexities of the political conflict at the center of the plot. Mihalik could have simply made this one a pure action novel, and done away with the rest. The fact that she didn’t says volumes about her passion for her writing, and I respected the hell out of her decision to flesh out her world with these extra details.
All in all, I found The Queen’s Gambit to be highly entertaining, perfect if you’re looking for a bite-sized adventure you can devour in a single afternoon. It’s pure action and intrigue with a good dose of romance, super-trimmed down for maximum pacing and readability. As a result, I wouldn’t expect anything too deep, but Jessie Mihalik has created a fun universe with compelling characters to hold your attention rapt. If a fluffy sci-fi tale is what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed.
Audiobook Comments: The narrator for the audiobook of The Queens Gambit, Rachel Dulude, is one of my favorites and I’ve enjoyed her work in the past, especially on Becky Chamber’s Wayfarers series. She has a great voice for sci-fi as well as strong, independent female characters, giving Samara a realistic and punchy personality!