The novel tells the story of Grand Duchess Anazakia Helisovna, an angel whose life story parallels that of Anastasia Romanov. Anazakia never really understood the politics of Heaven until her entire family was murdered and overthrown at the hands of Aeval, a really bitchy queen. Anazakia alone escaped with the aid of the demons Belphagor and Vasily, who fall with her from Heaven to Russia, where she cross-dresses to keep herself hidden. At first, the demons and Anazakia mutually distrust each other, but as the story progresses they come to an understanding, and Anazakia starts to realize just how sheltered her life was as a Grand Duchess.
This is one of the most fun books that I’ve read in a long time. It does have its flaws, such as the fact that Aeval isn’t very complex as a villain, but I was able to overlook that because I was so caught up in the story. I couldn’t put the book down, and I can’t wait for the next one to be released!
The author has really done her homework as far as Russia goes. When I read the book, I felt like I was back in St. Petersburg. She gets everything right, from the landmarks to the culture to the tapochki.
I also enjoyed the way that the characters fall outside of traditional gender roles. Belphagor and Vasily are an adorable gay couple, and Anazakia makes an interesting addition to their love triangle. The characters are unapologetically themselves, which is quite refreshing in fantasy. It bothered me that in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire that Dany could have frickin’ dragons, but poor Renly had to stay in the closet. Part of the fun of fantasy is being able to escape traditional social structures and play with reality. The author clearly had a lot of fun doing that, and it was a delight to read!
“The Fallen Queen” is a great escapist read, and the Russian setting makes it even more awesome. I would highly recommend it. Kindred’s writing reminded me of what would happen if one were to cross Jacqueline Carey with Mikhail Bulgakov.
This book counts toward the Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Baffled Books.