Monday, February 25, 2019

Dark Queen (Jane Yellowrock #12) by Faith Hunter

Jane, the Dark Queen, Enforce for Leo Pelessier, the Vampire ruler of the Greater South East United States is preparing for the duel that is finally here. A duel between Leo and the Emperor of the European vampires - a duel that will dictate the future of all vampire and witch kind

Assuming the visiting vampires haven’t plotted to undermine and interfere before the duel even begins

And assuming the American government doesn’t look at this gathering of the most powerful and dangerous vampires in the world and doesn’t just bomb it.

Jane has her hands full… and ow is really not the time for a man to appear claiming to be her long lost brother she never knew she had, especially when he introduces himself by shooting her

This is something of an epic finale to everything that has been happening for several books now - and the whole book is powerful tense and epic. The massive duel between Leo and the many vampires coming from Europe. We see all of his gathered entourage come out to fight, we see all the complex preparations, the betrayals, the plotting, the counter-plotting and how absolutely no-one is playing fair.

It all has an incredibly tense feel, from the very first page of the book you know some of these characters are going to die, that everything is going to change. It is maintained every second, not for one second do you forget even through side plots, even through the moments with Beast (beast is awesome, beast is best hunter and I have no idea why her writing doesn’t annoy me, but it doesn’t - I love her) that tension never leaves

Jane moves through it all and she’s amazing, powerful, competent, in control yet listening and learning from the people around her, people she genuinely loves and values. And even when she’s sat, maudling, or the fights of the actual duel are dragged out or we have a political scene which goes on and on and on for pages it all works and doesn’t feel sluggish because of that tension, power and sense of change behind everything. Thematically this book is amazing, the writing just works and the emotion doesn’t stop.

I really like Jane’s relationship with her brother. The conflict of it, the hopes mixed with the disappointment, the reactions, the conflict, the quashed ideals all are so powerful. I like the layers, I like that he has his own history and conflict, I like the legacy her example has set but I also appreciate her pain and anger over how he chose to introduce himself and how he chose to re-enter her life.  It created a fascinating complicated story. And, though I know next to nothing about Cherokee history or culture or language, there does seem to be a lot of research and effort into making these meaningful inclusion, ensuring that Jane isn’t just carrying around woo-woo from being Native American and nothing else. But i cannot speak to the accuracy of it.

It does kind of feel out of place, a little, tonally because we have the huge epic fight brewing, this massive conclusion to all the books, this hueg duel in which many important people will die - and then we have this little relationship drama. For that matter this happens a few times in the book where Jane is doing something and I’ll just blink “why, why are you doing this” same with the sudden involvement of the Party of African Weres. There is just SO MUCH going on.

I do really love Eli and Alex and Bruiser with Jane - they have an excellent relationship that really defines found family. I actually loved how this contrasted with Jane’s brother - and how both were family but blood family didn’t trump her found family - quite the opposite

Of course, the Eli brothers are Black, a huge number of minor characters are Black, Jane and her brother and her mentor are Cherokee, we have Asian heads of houses and important, powerful African shapeshifters who are Black (albeit not portrayed in a way that is sympathetic - nor lacking in animalistic/savage traits. Yes yes I know shapeshifters - but we have a new pack of werewolves based in America who are distinctly not portrayed as such) and a new werewolf pack with a Black alpha… there’s a LOT of racial inclusion in this book - in this whole series. And while Jane moves in a predominantly male dominated world there are more than a few notable, powerful and capable women… her best friend is also a woman and Jane’s primary motivation though she doesn’t get as much “screen time.”

I have ongoing issues with this series’s depiction of LGBTQ people. Firstly, many of the vampires are bisexual, it even seems to be the norm in Leo’s court - but it’s really not a positive depiction. Their bisexuality is clearly linked to their also being depraved, hedonistic, constantly surrounded by the smell of blood and sex. This is especially true when we contrast the “we’re having threesomes all over the place” Leo’s crew with the visiting European vampires with the prim-and-proper Roman vampire being homophobic (more than a little bizarre). Not that his homophobia is pointed out as being a positive, but it’s noted that his straight-laced, reserved, prudishness includes being straight while Leo, the very opposite, means being Bi and having orgies all over. It’s also noteworthy how they’re referred to - they all have an opposite sex lover they’re passionate about - but the same-sex people who shared their beds? Are called “friends”.

And the only two gay men in the entire series, both bit parts, are the epitome of stereotyped, GBFs, with no personalities and lines you could literally transfer between them without it causing any jarring despite them being different species, having different professions and coming from different countries. Because there is no character there - just a handful of gay tropes mushed together and copied.

I am hopeful this book isn’t a conclusion - but at very least it will be a huge reboot of the series… which I don’t think is a bad thing? I mean some of the people who died and some of the changes that will happen going forward make me sad, but this book was supposed to be sad - it was a book of epic lose and confrontation and change. It is supposed to be sad. But that change gives this series a new opportunity as well - it struck me as everyone was gathered together for the grand fight just HOW MANY NAMES there were, all with their own motives and involvements and at least part of me was yelling “who are all these people?! Wait these two hate each other? Are you friends with Jane? Ohhh she’s the big traitor? I don’t remember her…” I mean, there’s such a lot there now that a fresh start will help narrow the focus, cut down some plot lines and let it all rise anew from this epic ashen finale