Book Review: Queenslayer by Sebastien de Castell
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: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 5 of Spellslinger
Publisher: Orbit (May 21, 2019)
Length: 496 pages
In this penultimate installment of the Spellslinger series, our hapless protagonist Kellen Argos has once again traveled to a new place and embroiled himself in yet another sticky political situation in which he really can’t afford to make a single mistake. Fortunately, by his side is Reichis, his trusty sidekick (sorry, business partner) who is a cantankerous squirrel cat with the heart of a lion and the mouth of a sailor. Like all the previous volumes, this one also features a very memorable and vibrant supporting cast as characters new and old make an appearance, while certain absences can also be felt strongly.
In Queenslayer, Kellen has traveled to Darome, a nation with some peculiar customs and beliefs. After accidentally smearing blood on a Daroman flag, our protagonist finds himself hauled in front of the royal court to face justice for his crime. Presiding over his trial is Queen , an 11-year-old girl wise beyond her years. Devising a challenge in the form of a card game, she manages to get the court to spare Kellen and place him under her protection.
But pretty soon, Kellen realizes that being in the queen’s service is not all it’s cracked up to be. Most of the others mistrust him, fearful of his Shadowblack. And some also want to use him to their advantage, putting Kellen in a delicate spot. As a greater conspiracy is revealed to him, Kellen is finding it more and more difficult to keep his head above water, painfully aware that the queen probably trusts and relies on him more than she should.
Five books in, it is fascinating for me to watch the evolution of this series. In my review of the previous book, Soulbinder, I noted how I thought we had reached a turning point, where Kellen’s journey may have started taking steps towards a darker and more mature direction. Queenslayer has certainly not swayed me from that impression. While this book still has plenty of action and humor, I definitely feel that it is more understated compared to the first three in the series. For one thing, the story is heavily focused on courtly politics, putting Kellen’s wits to the test. Having reached his eighteenth birthday, our boy is growing up, and it’s obvious from certain themes in the plot as well as some of the situations in which he finds himself. That said, I was pleased to see that if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed much, it’s that he is still completely hopeless when it comes to women.
With one more book to go, Sebastien de Castell is also preparing to tie everything together, though of course there are still plenty of secrets he keeps close to the vest. There’s more about the Shadowblack, building upon what we learned from the previous book in which we saw Kellen start to come around to what the markings might mean for his future. However, new information about his affliction—including the possibility of a cure—has once more gotten him rethinking all his plans. The author has also teased a greater role for Kellen’s sister, and Shalla makes an appearance in Queenslayer, bringing with her all kinds of questions about her endgame. I’m still not really sure about her, whether her love for Kellen is sincere or if she is merely a tool of their father; all I know is that I’m excited to find out more. And finally, I would also love to see more of Ferius. I’ve been missing her, and of course I’m still holding out hope that there will be a bigger part for the Argosi, but at the same time I can’t deny that a part of me is tremendously proud to watch Kellen come into his own without anyone holding his hand. It feels like his has been the goal of the last two novels.
Needless to say, if you’ve been enjoying the series, Queenslayer is not to be missed. I always feel a nervous energy whenever we approach a finale, and this is pretty much where I am now, waiting on pins and needles for Crownbreaker. I’m going to be sad when Kellen and Reichis’ journey comes to a close, but knowing that I’ll have all the fond memories of their past adventures to keep me smiling, it’s hard to feel too upset. As far as memorable moments go, there are plenty in this one, and I can’t wait to read the final book.