Book one of The Inheritor’s Cycle begins with glimpses of the lives of two queens, both of whom will do whatever is necessary to hold on to their position and power. As a child, Belinda Primrose realizes that she is the illegitimate daughter of Lorraine, queen of Aulun, and the queen’s close advisor and spymaster, Robert Drake, though she is not acknowledged. At the age of ten, Drake recruits his daughter into his service, and she exceeds his expectations with an act that will shock the reader. Not only does Belinda become a spy, but an assassin, as well. At the tender age of twenty-one, Belinda takes on the persona of Beatrice, a minor noblewoman, for the express purpose of rooting out any threats against Lorraine. This assignment requires infiltration of the close-knit group of friends of Prince Javier, son of rival Queen Regent Sandalia. The task requires more of her than Belinda initially expects, and in the process of meeting the challenges presented to her, she discovers her magical ability, her witchlight. This discovery and Belinda’s response to it fuel the actions of the rest of the story.
The world of The Queen’s Bastard resembles an alternate history version of Renaissance Europe. Women rule the three kingdoms that are the focus of the story, and each of them hides a secret regarding heirs. Each of the women, though distrustful of one another and in fact would like nothing better than the demise of the others, refers to the other two as her sisters. Parallels may be made between Lorraine and Elizabeth the Great, even a sister who slaughtered her own people over religion. Aulun is a Reformist nation, standing alone against two others with Ecumenic rulers. Murphy explores the great irony of three women rulers in a male-dominated society. Interestingly, she chooses Robert to reflect upon the issue, regarding those who feel the three women are, “unnaturally masculine. The idea that they are wholly feminine and wholly capable doesn’t appear to have occurred to anyone, or, or if it has, they’ve found it such an appalling and frightening thought as to put it away again and never let it see the light of day” (167).
Murphy handles characterization skillfully, from major to minor players. In the case of Belinda, she creates a character one would typically perceive as an unsympathetic protagonist and makes the reader care about her, even when her actions horrify. This achievement deserves accolades. Belinda has spent her whole life doing the bidding of others, no matter how distasteful. As she comes into her power and learns how to harness it, the reader willingly goes along for the ride.
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Del Rey (April 29, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345494644
- ISBN-13: 978-0345494641
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