Book Review: “The Queen Of Swords” by R.S. Belcher

Warning: This book review contains spoilers for “The Queen Of Swords” by R.S. Belcher. If you’re trying to avoid spoilers, don’t read this review!

Happy August, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful July, and that August is just as good or better!

Cover of “The Queen Of Swords” by R.S. Belcher.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “The Queen Of Swords” by R.S. Belcher! This is the third book in the Golgotha series, as it takes place after “The Six-Gun Tarot” and “The Shotgun Arcana.” I enjoyed reading the past two books, so I was happy to have the chance to pick up this one to read! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“1720. Escaping the gallows, Anne Bonney, the infamous pirate queen, sets sail in search of a fabulous treasure said to be hiding in a lost city of bones somewhere in the heart of Africa. But what she finds is a destiny she never expected…

1870. Maude Stapleton is a respectable widow raising a daughter on her own. Few know, however, that Maude belongs to an ancient order of assassins, the Daughters of Lilith, and heir to the legacy of Anne Bonney, whose swashbuckling exploits blazed a trail that Maude must now follow–if she ever wants to see her kidnapped daughter again!

Searching for her missing child, come hell or high water, Maude finds herself caught in the middle of a secret war between the Daughters of Lilith and their ancestral enemies, the monstrous Sons of Typhon, inhuman creatures spawned by primordial darkness, she embarks on a perilous voyage that will ultimately lead her to the long-lost secret of Anne Bonney–and the Father of All Monsters.”

Trigger Warnings:

Like in the previous books in this series, there is a lot of murder and violence. There is also a lot of religious language involved in the worldbuilding and some of the major plot points, in case you are uncomfortable with such content. There are also mentions of domestic abuse and sexism, as well as some racist terminology used in dialogue between a few characters towards Indigenous people in particular, in some chapters. I take into account that this is a reflection of the time period within the book, given that the setting is in 1870, and this is a historical fantasy book. However, if any of these elements are things you are uncomfortable with, you may want to skip reading this one.

Worldbuilding Development: 3 out of 5 stars

I think this third book took a big risk, changing the main setting from Golgotha to a place completely outside of it, as well as including some time-travel-esque bits throughout the book due to Anne’s plotline. However, I do think that though it succeeded in executing some parts (how Charleston is different from Golgotha in terms of the people, etc.), I also think it equally failed in execution. There was a lot of discussion about Maude growing up in Charleston and her family history, but I didn’t get a good sense of how Maude felt, coming back to a place that was previously home prior to her being in Golgotha.

I also just found the worldbuilding involved in Anne’s plotline jarring, and hard to comprehend overall. Given that Anne’s plotline does take up about a third of the book, I’m a bit disappointed that the places she navigates were not fleshed-out more. However, I did enjoy the worldbuilding given about the Daughters of Lilith and Sons of Typhon, and I wish there was more information given about them.

Character Development: 3 out of 5 stars

Maude and Anne don’t have  a lot of character development. They’re spunky, strong, daring, and certainly determined to get what they want, but I never felt like they had a lot of struggle and/or development despite all that they went through. Sure, they were in physical danger and/or at risk of losing things important to them, but I did not feel much change, if any, in how they developed as people.

I did enjoy the few cameos from Huang, Mutt, and Jim where they appeared in the book, and I am glad that they (and the rest of Golgotha) seem to be doing well after all that happened in the previous two books. However, given that it seems the main setting of the next book in this series is likely to be Golgotha again, I’m interested in seeing how plotlines from the last two books (like Harry and Ringo’s romance, for example) end up continuing.

Plot Development: 3 out of 5 stars

I am actually quite disappointed in the plot development, compared to last book. There is an overarching main plot, but unfortunately the sideplots take more precedence overall other than the main plot. Somehow, despite the urgency of the war between the Daughters of Lilith and the Sons of Typhon, the story manages to have sideplots involving a courtroom drama of child custody through mostly Maude’s point of view, that takes up about a third of the book, and a pirate/adventure story through Anne (which takes up another third of the book). The pacing of the book was slow, and made the story less fun to read overall, because of all the sideplots taking more precedence over the main plot.

However, I did enjoy reading the plot twist that Anne was actually Maude’s grandmother. It certainly explained Maude’s generally spunky, daring attitude towards anything that opposes her.

Overall, I’m rating this book 3 out of 5 stars!

Though this is not as strong of an entry in the series as the first two books were, I do hope the next book gets a bit better from here.

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