Review: The Queen’s Adept by Rodolfo Martínez

queen's-adepttranslated by the author


June 29, 2012

376 pages

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A remarkable story by the award-winning Spanish author Rodolfo Martínez, The Queen’s Adept expertly mixes the fantasy and spy thriller genres to create a unique take on religious conflict, our perception of reality, and the manipulation of memory. Thankfully, Martínez’s sequel to this novel is coming out soon, because I seriously need to know what happens to these characters…

In the world of The Queen’s Adept, entities called “messengers” are manipulated by people to create complex technologies and support the structures of civilization. Instant teleportation, psychological manipulation, the transformation of physical objects: these are just some of the powerful tools used by the people of Érvinder (the known world) to do things like spy on enemies, conduct business, build weapons, harvest “menialbodies” (which are used as loyal servants), etc. At the moment, the two major world powers- God’s Hammer and the People’s Covenant- are locked in a cold war over religious “truth”: is there just one god or many gods?

To make things worse, someone has stolen some “bad news bombs” (weapons that will wipe out messengers and reduce any city on the receiving end to chaos and panic) and nobody knows who did the stealing or why. Enter Yáxtor Brandan, empirical adept in the service of the Queen of Alboné and a master manipulator of messengers. Acting partly on his own and partly at the request of the queen, Brandan sets out to uncover the truth of who stole the bombs and diffuse them before they reduce civilization to rubble.

But why do I call The Queen’s Adept “remarkable”? For one thing, it starts off modestly, reading like a basic story of court intrigue, but with a fantastical twist, centered around the brash, jaded, and incredibly dangerous Brandan. Further in, you start to realize that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg: Brandan’s queen is actually the latest embodiment in a string of queens that pass down their memories through menialbodies to the next incarnation; the Darkwoods are somehow connected to one another and besides producing menialbodies, possibly hold the key to the development of religion on Érvinder; Brandan himself is the victim of a heinous crime that resulted in the death of his family and erasure of his memory; and the queen, her adepts, and her artifexes might have had something to do with it. Like I said, tip of the iceberg.

The Queen’s Adept lures you in to a complex world in which “reality” has been intentionally shaped into something that, if it one day disappeared, would send the world spiraling down into the Dark Ages. But what exactly are these “messengers”? And what is the reality that lies underneath the veneer of civilization that has been built up over centuries? Martínez doesn’t directly address these questions (though I wish he would!) but perhaps the answers lie ahead in subsequent books.

Like Cat’s Whirld, The Queen’s Adept doesn’t shy away from mixing genres and giving us characters who defy expectations. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in this cycle.

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