Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Queen Must Die by K. A. S. Quinn

The Queen Must Die is a time travel adventure story featuring Katie Berger-Jones-Burg, a young girl from New York who finds herself in the palace of Queen Victoria, at the time when the Crystal Palace was being built. With the help of Princess Alice and a doctor's boy called James O'Reilly, Katie discovers a plot to assassinate the queen and has to try everything to prevent it from coming to pass. But there are sinister figures creeping through the palace at night, and supernatural forces at work - Katie is not the only time-traveller in the city...

On the whole I really enjoyed The Queen Must Die by K. A. S. Quinn. It was exciting, dark in places, and very humorous, but I had a few niggles as I was reading it.

I think the biggest issue is that this novel felt a lot like setting up the idea of time travelling and the forces of good and evil that utilise the art of time travelling. It is the first in a planned trilogy, and therefore a few of the details were slightly sketchy.

The strongest part of the novel was the characterisation. Katie was a fabulously strong voice - a brave and sassy American girl, who is able to use her wits under pressure. She's also presented as being a reader - and, of course, I'm massively in favour of seeing characters like this in children's books! Princess Alice was presented very ably as a product of her time - meek at times, and realising that her place in society is limited by her sex. The comparison that can be made between Katie and Alice shows just how much life has changed for women over the years. James O'Reilly is an excellent foil for both the girls - dour and grumpy most of the time, reluctantly admiring of Katie's tomboy abilities, such as catching balls and climbing.

Quinn wraps historical facts into the story with evident glee and a love for her research. The sweet relationship between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert is written beautifully, including a very touching midnight scene between them as they research their work on desks side by side.

The introduction of supernatural elements was a little of a sideways swerve into a different story. I could quite happily have read more about Katie adjusting to life in Victorian times - that would have made for a very entertaining read - and so I struggled once the 'three children', the Tempus Fugit, were added.

Behind the immediate plot, there was some rather nice discussion on the nature of motherhood and the different approaches; and also how cause leads to effect within time travel stories. Both of these themes were tackled in a way that made it very easy for younger readers to analyse as well.

As I say, on the whole this was a fun little book and I would certainly not object to reading the second in the series. It is suitable for readers 8-12, in my opinion, but older readers would find enough to enjoy as well. An exciting romp through history with a lovely female protagonist.

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