Audiobook Review: The Queen’s Road by R.S. Belcher
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): 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 1/Stand Alone
Publisher: Audible Originals (December 19, 2019)
Length:10 hrs and 20 mins
I loved this so much! I’m a big fan of R.S. Belcher, and when I saw that the was releasing an Audible Original called The Queen’s Road, my first thought based on the title was that it might be part of The Brotherhood of the Wheel series. After reading the synopsis though, I wasn’t so sure. While it’s still possible that the book takes place in the same universe (like how the Nightwise series is related), this appears to be a completely brand-new story, introducing a whole new world and a fresh cast of characters.
At the center of it all is Ramon “Ray” Cosa, a young man who has been down on his luck lately but is still trying his best to keep his life running. Almost everyone he loves is dead and gone—including his father, brother, girlfriend—until all that’s let of Ray’s family is his mother Juanita. But even she’s not altogether there now most of the time, having turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with the grief from all her losses. But despite all that, Ray loves his mom dearly, and unfortunately, his enemies know it too. Now Ray must find a way to pay back the money he owes to some very dangerous people, or they will make good on their threat to kill Juanita.
So when a dying stranger comes out of nowhere one night, bequeathing to Ray his vintage Ford Galaxie and a mysterious jeweled ring, our baffled protagonist couldn’t believe his luck. His mom would be saved, and he even has a sweet ride now to make some money street racing. But of course, as Ray will soon find out, some gifts come with strings attached—forever, in this case. It turns out that the dying man was one of the Queen of the Universe’s Rangers, a guardian who travels the network of hyper-space highways that connect all the planets and galaxies in creation, protecting its laws and its people. They are identified by the rings they wear, the very same one given to Ray which will now stay on his finger until the day he dies. Like it or not, Ray is a Ranger now, and he’s got a lot to learn.
The Queen’s Road is probably the most light-hearted of everything I’ve read by the author so far (but it’s still full of grit), and it is also the most bizarre and imaginative. And yet, most of the book’s setting is surprisingly grounded, and here Belcher is once again doing what he does best, creating a realistic urban backdrop which belies an amazing world of magic and wonder that Ray discovers once he meets Chain, an experienced Ranger who ends up being the young man’s mentor. Like portal fantasy, the Queen’s Road is a system that opens doors to infinite possibilities, and the places that Ray visits, the strange and alien beings he meets and their colorful traditions he encounters are as rich as any of those you would find in a sci-fi space opera.
The book also features a lively cast of characters. A war veteran pawn shop owner who knows more about the Rangers than he lets on. Gang members who turn out to be unexpected allies. A so-called savior who sounds more like they could be a super-villain. Inter-galactic rock stars and ambassadors. You just never know who will turn up next. In the middle of it all, Ray is a protagonist you can really root for. He’s not perfect, and at times his dumb decisions and naivete really grated on my nerves, but at least there’s no that question his heart is in the right place. Even after everything he’s lost, he’s still a fighter, maintaining a hopeful attitude and positive outlook on life. He’s very likeable and that optimism managed to win me over quickly.
And the story, oh the story. This really is a perfect one for audio. The pacing is snappy, and even with the third-person omniscient point-of-view and the occasional random switches in perspective, there was no problem with following along, thanks to the superb narration by Kaleo Griffith. His accents and voices for the characters were all spot on, and there was never any confusion of whose heads we were in. This book had everything from humor and action, and even a plot arc involving a heist where our characters had to jump through a lot of hoops (including buying a few crazy services from some interesting people) in order to break an important colleague out of prison. That was probably the most entertaining part of the book, and also my favorite, even more so than the action-packed conclusion where all our heroes come together to save the universe.
But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to The Queen’s Road and discover its awesomeness for yourself. I had a blast with this one, and I hope R.S. Belcher will continue to expand this world with more stories because clearly the potential is there.