Review: Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach

heaven's queen by rachel bachFormat read: ebook (purchased)
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Science fiction; space opera
Series: Paradox, #3
Length: 388 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: April 22, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell’s doomed ship, Devi Morris’ life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that’s eating her alive.

Now, with the captain missing and everyone — even her own government — determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi’s never been one to shy from a fight, and she’s getting mighty sick of running.

It’s time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.

My Review:

The titles of the Paradox series did not really resonate with me until Devi herself brought it to my attention.

“Hello, Deviana,” he said, his voice calm and dreamy. “It is always a pleasure to share space with any companion of my darling Novascape and Copernicus. I was just about to start a game. Do you play chess?”

My smile vanished. Why did all these former Eye types keep asking me that? “No,” I said, “I don’t know how.”

I feel you Devi. I’m not a chess fan myself, and I do not enjoy anyone trying to turn chess into a metaphor for life. It’s just a game people. Personally, I hope that by the time human society has expanded into several galaxies, and encountered a multitude of sentient alien life, we would have moved beyond the chess obsession.

Which is to say, that unlike Marlene, the chess comparisons do not resonate with me. Devi’s character does evolve over the course of the series (which I discussed in detail in my review of Honor’s Knight), but, much to my chagrin, she doesn’t mature into a queen in her own right.

However, we’re all forever grateful that Devi booted Charkov off the angst-ridden-love-slave train. I finally started to get behind their relationship once he’d started sharing necessary information about the Eyes, Maat, and the Daughters with Devi. Basically once he stopped waffling and went all in, I could ship it.

Then…well, then I found out why people have been comparing this series to urban fantasy. “Devi, I am a tortured old vampire man, the last survivor of my species planet, who never understood love until you. Alas, my demon symbiont hates you for bringing joy to my soul and will forever try to take you from me. I am so utterly selfishly enslaved by your vagina that I couldn’t bear to leave before, but now, despite always knowing this would happen, I truly know how dangerous I am. Woe. Ennui.”

“The only way you put me in danger was by not telling me this shit earlier!” I yelled, ignoring the pain in my throat as I shot to my feet as well. “If you want to beat yourself up over something, beat yourself up over that, but like hell am I letting you abandon me out of some stupid, chivalrous, self-punishing sense of guilt.”

YES. Of course, being Devi, she immediately solves the problems that Eyes have been plagued with for 90+ years on symbiont control. The Eyes clearly needed to recruit more practical soldier types, and fewer True Believers.

Once we all stop rolling our eyes at the romance hurdles, Rachel Bach decides to use the opportunity to drop a Paradoxian-society-bomb in our laps.

I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. It was horribly inappropriate, but I couldn’t stop. He just looked so damn earnest. “You can’t get me pregnant,” I said when I finally got a hold of myself. “I’m Paradoxian, remember?”

The look on Rupert’s face at that moment was absolutely priceless. “What does that have to do with it?”

“I never got out from under the ban,” I said, wiping my eyes. “Honestly, Rupert, what kind of girl did you think I was?”

If Rupert had looked bewildered before, he looked absolutely dumbfounded now. “Ban?”

My smile faded. “The king’s fertility ban.” When that got nothing, I spelled it out for him. “All Paradoxians are sterilized at twelve. Breeding rights aren’t returned until you’ve finished your military service.”

Rupert’s bewildered expression had turned horrified by the time I finished, and I put my hands on my hips. “How do you not know this? The ban’s been in place for over a century. It was all over the Terran propaganda during the Border Wars.”

“Exactly,” Rupert said. “I always thought it was just propaganda.” He pushed up on his elbows, looking me straight in the face. “You’re seriously saying your government forcibly sterilized you?”

“Not forcibly,” I said. “My mom took me in to get it done on my birthday. The whole thing was over in ten minutes. And it’s not like it’s forever. I’ve been eligible to have it reversed for years. I just never saw the point. I mean, do I look like the sort of person who wants to worry about babies?”

I finished with a grin at the ridiculousness of that idea, but Rupert was still staring at me like I’d grown a second head. “I’m sorry,” he said, falling back on the bed as he reached up to rub his temples. “It’s just, it sounds a bit barbaric.”

“How so?” I asked, lifting my chin. “All Paradoxian children are wards of the king. You can’t let just anyone have them. We’re not animals, having babies all over the place. Barbaric, indeed. If you ask me, we’re the civilized ones. You Terrans let anybody be a parent no matter how young or unprepared or undeserving they are.”

As I said this, I was again reminded how blessed I was to have been born under the Sacred King’s prudence. I couldn’t imagine growing up in the Republic with no living saint to watch over you. But while I was feeling rightly superior, Rupert had started to chuckle.

I still love the universe-building in this series, but what the fuck is this shit?!

Devi your creepy religious government has literally taken control of your body as a means of forcing military service and ensuring that only the devout breed?! How are you not bothered by this?! At this point, all my hopes that Devi would take out the so-called Sacred King when she dismantled the Eyes horrifying Daughter system crumbled into dust.

In the end, Devi could never buy into the Eyes’ fervor, because she was already a True Believer. Just a different flavor of devout, and no amount of exposure to other species, races, cultures, societies, and proof that her goddamn Sacred King was willing to sell of any of his (female) wards to the Eyes’ on a moment’s notice was going to change that.

In Heaven’s QueenDevi finally realizes that she has no one to rely on but herself and her Cook. Even Maat is an unpredictable ally. (Though you really can’t blame her. Almost a century of being used, abused, betrayed, and disregarded – it’d be hard to believe in sincerity).

Caldswell, Brenton and company all play a big part in the finale, namely trying (and failing) to put a leash on Devi. The problem with putting a bioweapon inside a sentient being is that person is going to have an opinion on how it is used. And when that person is Devi, said opinions will be expressed with a multitude of firepower and sass.

I can’t really delve too much into the overarching plot without giving things away. But it is safe to say that Paradoxians are creepily brainwashed from infancy, Terrans are moronically unable to think in any fashion that is not directly linear, and together they are both easily duped by and alien race, a psychotic immortal teenager, and/or a gun-happy mercenary.

Escape Rating: C+ for taking me on an exhilarating ride, and giving me the most unsatisfying conclusion. The last few pages of the book are just like watching the last few minutes of Battlestar Galactica. (Wow, that show was awesome….wait so Hera just screwed a bunch of neanderthals? Whaaaaa?). 

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