Review: Queen of Shadow by Suz deMello

Reviewed by Ronelle

Janus is a planet lacking both tilt and spin, and its Shadowlands divide the violently hot Lightside from the perpetually cold Darkside. Because of the world’s peculiarities, birthrates are low and indiscriminate mating encouraged.

Unless you’re the Queen of Shadow.

Audryn, made queen upon the deaths of her family members, has reached the time when she must either choose a King to rule with her or fail to bear an heir, casting not only her realm but all of Janus into chaos. As nobles in all three realms vie for her hand and favor, and though she trysts with many, none have struck her as the right choice. She briefly considers Kaldir, the Prince-Scientist sent by the Children of Light for a time…

Then Storne, the warrior Prince of Darkness, arrives to claim her as his bride.

Will his masterful ways allure or repel the willful Queen?

***

I wanted to love this book, and based on the blurb, I thought I was going to. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was page after page of porn in every partner combination (MF, MFM, FF, F with a shapeshifter-dragon-thing, etc.) and fetish (incest, almost-fisting, feet, voyeurism, DP, etc.) with pretty much zero plot for the first three-quarters of the story. From previous experience, I knew Ms. deMello’s writing was crass, crude, and inelegant, but Queen of Shadow took it to an extreme that I found squicky at times. I’m not at all into anything involving feet, and lines like “He clasped my head in both hands and fucked my face” just took the sexy out of this for me.

I didn’t like Audryn, the main character—not even a little. Beyond her inability to go more than ten seconds without wanting to fuck anything in her vicinity that was willing, I found her to be whiny, mercurial, vapid, unintelligent, and immature. Her moods, convictions, and thoughts jumped from one extreme to another at the drop of a hat and without a lot of logic or reason. Her first sexual partner was her cousin, but she was later totally grossed out by the idea of possibly screwing someone distantly related through a generations-previous marriage. She came to the most ridiculous conclusions based on facts (or more often, lack thereof) that she then didn’t follow through on or that didn’t impact the ultimate outcome. Kaldir was easy to forget, and I often did forget about him until he wandered back into a scene. He had zero personality or impact until Ms. deMello seemed to remember at about the 80% mark that she thus far hadn’t given us a plot. Then he was important, though interestingly absent from the actual action. Storne could have been a really great character if given more development, and he was the only one I found of any interest, integrity, or consistency. He was perhaps a little He-Man or Conan the Barbarian-esque, but he also showed more depth and intelligence than anyone else.

Queen of Shadows had no plot beyond who Audryn would take as her mate (though that was made pretty obvious early on) until more than three-quarters of the way through the story. Then all of a sudden, we get a hastily jammed together action sequence complete with surprisingly graphic violence, sinister-but-clumsy villainy, and a limp attempt at suspense. (Seriously, we all knew how this one would end.) We also get a convenient instance of Deus ex Machina—ahem, I mean suddenly/randomly realized royal magic. The entire point of this story was clearly the sex, and Ms. deMello IS pretty creative with the erotic encounters, but I wish she hadn’t tried to make it into/about something else right at the very end.

It also seemed like the writing was pretty rushed, and it could have used another line-edit. Phrases like “To do anything else is dishonors their hospitality” and “but in her absence her I was vulnerable and knew it“ littered the narrative. There were passages that, even after multiple readings, were either awkwardly phrased (“Before the deaths in a boating accident of my family, the King, Queen…”) or just straight-up made no sense whatsoever (Audryn’s first meeting with Storne was just a hot, stream-of-consciousness mess). The names of the secondary characters were less than creative (Caducia of the Health Ministry and Geoman of the Elements Office). Some serious structural edits were needed on this, to fix some continuity and consistency errors.

Bottom line: The Amazon blurb promises this as the next Game of Thrones, but don’t be fooled. If you’re looking for fetish porn and don’t care about a coherent, overarching plot, then this will probably do it for you. However, if you like stories that make consistent sense and are actually going somewhere, keep looking.

Rating: D

**I received an ARC in exchange for my review, but the format was unreadable so I ended up purchasing a copy.**

Click to purchase: Amazon

Queen of Shadow
by Suz deMello
Original Release Date: July 7, 2008
ReRelease Date: August 17, 2017

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