Urban fantasy review: ‘Twiceborn Queen’ by Marina Finlayson

July 3, 2015 Review 0

This is the second part of the urban fantasy series The Proving, and boy, is it a cracker. I loved the first part, Twiceborn, werewolves and all, but this one is, if anything, even better. It’s a rare accomplishment in a trilogy to maintain the momentum of the first book into the second, but here the author carries it off with style.

SPOILER WARNING: the end of the first book had a number of spectacular reveals, and I really can’t talk about events in this book without referencing them, so it will be impossible to avoid spoilers for Twiceborn. Don’t read any further if you haven’t yet read it. There are no spoilers for this book, however.

In Twiceborn, Kate O’Connor thought things couldn’t get worse after the death of her son, Lachie. Well, she was totally wrong about that. She found herself drawn into the war of succession between the daughters of Sydney’s dragon queen. The winner will be the last one left standing. Kate doesn’t want any part of it, but one of the dragon daughters has made a dying transition into Kate’s body. Now the two, dragon and human, are one.

So Kate has no choice but to fight. But now she has something worth fighting for, because her supposedly dead son has reappeared and she also has a brand-new boyfriend. She’d love to settle down and play happy families, just the three of them, but first she has to settle the Proving, and become the new queen.

Kate is an awesome heroine. Not because she’s a kickass fighter in the feisty female protagonist tradition of urban fantasy (although in dragon mode she’s pretty damn hot). No, it’s because she never loses sight of her human side. She’s been given some really short straws in life, but she doesn’t agonise over her situation, she just gets on and does whatever needs to be done to protect her son. It doesn’t always work as she hopes, and perhaps when your mother is half-dragon a child has to be aware of all the unpleasantness that goes along with that, but Lachie is always her first thought in a crisis, and she tries her damnedest to keep things normal for him. There’s this glorious conversation:

“Lachie sniffed appreciatively.
“Something smells good!”
“That’s your lunch, mate,” said Dave.
“Can I have something to eat now? I’m starving.”
“You’ll have to ask your mum about that.”
He gave me his best imploring look.
“Have a piece of fruit. You don’t want to spoil your appetite.”
I looked around at the others as I spoke. Did anyone else find this surreal? This kind of conversation was probably going on in hundreds of other households around Sydney right now. But none of them were waiting on the results of [spoiler: let’s just say ‘unpleasant dragon stuff’]”

Kate is such a wonderful contrast between loving, worrying mother and couldn’t-care-less dragon. I’m quite sure that by the time the trilogy ends, she will have found a resolution to this dichotomy, but in this book it’s pulling her in two different directions. She has to determine when to bring her human side forward, and when it’s necessary to unleash her inner dragon.

But the author doesn’t ever allow the story to bog down in angsty whining. The conflict is there, and Kate’s aware of it, but she never dwells on it. Not that she has much time to dwell on anything, because the action kicks off almost from the start and never lets up for a moment. Everyone, it seems, is out to get Kate, and it’s hard to know who she can trust.

She has a core group of loyal supporters, amongst them boyfriend Ben, and Garth the werewolf. I got a bit cross with Ben, who whines a lot and turns out to be one of those irritating people whose idea of helping is to do something really reckless and worry-inducing. And Garth’s idea of helping is to quibble about every decision Kate makes. There are some new characters in this book, and one in particular lit up every scene. Shifters are always fascinating, but this was an unusual one (to me, anyway).

The author ended the first book in awe-inspiring style, and I was sure she couldn’t repeat the feat. She could and did, in spades. The last few chapters swept me into a maelstrom of emotions, and some utterly shocking developments. And all completely logical. I’d even foreseen some of them, but they still took me completely by surprise when they happened.

This was another unputdownable outing from the author, a well-written urban fantasy with loads of action, some memorable characters and that trademark Australian wit. Now I can’t wait for the final installment. Five stars.

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