Queen of the Dark Things by C. Robert Cargill
Gollancz, 403pp hardback, £16.99 cover price
£5.99 on Kindle (Jan 2016)
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
When I reviewed the author’s debut novel last year [actually, 2013 now], Dreams and Shadows, I went on to suggest it may be in for a whole host of possible awards when the roll call comes round, which just goes to show what I know about awards, I guess. That said, I did like it, and this sequel of sorts presents more of the same, although it does come across as a lot more controlled and accomplished than the first outing, and the writing again is pretty awesome.
In this volume, Colby Stevens has moved on and this time round is trying to save both himself and a young girl called Kaycee Looes (the Queen of the Dark Things of the title) from the magical and oh-so-dark enchantments of the faerie universe, as well as the entire state of Austin, Texas at a stretch…
It does take a while to get going, mainly because we still have the story punctuated by excerpts from Dr Thaddeus Ray’s fictional The Everything You Cannot See, a faerie encyclopaedia/companion of sorts that magically appears every time Colby comes across a new variation of faerie or daemon not previously introduced in the first book. Again, though, Cargill’s faerie universe is quite a cool place to be, taking established representations of faerie myth and reimagining them with a much darker bent and hue.
The focus is on ‘aboriginal dreamtime’ in this volume and as Colby’s anonymity from the first volume is gradually stripped away and his grief comes to the fore, he soon finds it increasingly difficult to avoid the unwanted attention of some very powerful enemies, and encounters the dreaded Seventy-Two as a consequence — a whole legion of demonic faeries that will happily tear him limb-from-limb even while acknowledging that he is their only chance of saviour from a cursed existence at the beck and call of the aforementioned Queen.
I’m sure it all sounds so terribly complicated, but bottom-line is that Colby must make several deals with demons (always a very bad idea btw kiddies) in order to save their souls from enslavement and also protect his own existence and that of Kaycee too. He is granted five boons (wishes/truths) — one from each greater demon — and must endure an encounter with each to strike a bargain in exchange, using this knowledge to bring the Queen of the title to heel, and restore the knife-edgy balance to this somewhat amazing but nonetheless rather nasty faerieland.
To say more, as always, would be a spoiler, but I will say that this feels more confident than Dreams and Shadows and will also work quite happily as a standalone tale for those who maybe aren’t too keen on the bylines of the first volume. It’s another good read, though, and well worth your time and money if you like your fiction dark and magical. A good tale, well told.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society (BFS) website here