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The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan. Book Review

January 6, 2018

Queen of all crows

In the year 2012 the International Patent Office continues to maintain a tight grip on the types of technology in use around most the world.

When airships begin disappearing in mid-Atlantic the Patent Office need to find out what is going on. But as their authority does not extend beyond the territorial water of member nations, unofficial methods of investigation have to take place.

Desperate to discover the fate of her closest friend who was on the latest airship to be downed, Elizabeth approaches the Patent Office for recruitment as a spy.

Once again Elizabeth must disguise herself as a man and launch herself into what may be her riskiest situation yet.

Describing a book as a page turner is an overused phrase, but over the last three novels Rod Duncan has devised such devilish situations for his much-put-upon heroine Elizabeth Barnabus you feel the act of reading might be the only way to get her to a place of safety. This series is written in such a way you are afraid a vital event might be going on while you’ve put the book down to take a break.

The author writes his characters well and the plot of the new The Map of Unknown Things series is no less convoluted than the previous Gas Lit Empire trilogy. This story relies particularly on Elizabeth second-guessing the women who rule the inventive floating empire, at the centre of which is the Unicorn, a hulk with a colourful history.

The beauty of this story is that because it is set in a tight-knit community on a man-made (or in this case woman-made) island floating loose on the ocean, Elizabeth has nowhere to run. More than ever this is a battle of wits and wills, which Elizabeth must win or perish. But it is not only Elizabeth’s life that is in danger. Everything has been built into the story to ramp up the tension (and the page turning), creating a delicious anxiety in the reader who needs a stiff drink at the end of it all.

If you’ve missed the previous books, this story stands up just fine on its own, but you will have missed an engaging trilogy where technology is in the frustrating stranglehold of the International Patent Office, and the role of women within its territories it is far too limited for an independent spirit like Elizabeth.

Although well-formed from the beginning, the development of Elizabeth’s character is a complex as her personality and values. That her beloved is an officer within the Patent Office, who is torn by his vocation and the demands Elizabeth makes on it, really creates a depth to a most intriguing fantasy heroine.

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