Review Blog

Jul 21 2010

The Queen must die by K.A.S. Quinn

cover image

Atlantic Books, 2010. ISBN: 978 1848873704
(Suggested reading level 12-15) First in The Chronicles of the Tempus trilogy.
In this novel, Katie Berger-Jones-Burg, a contemporary American teenager, time travels to London in 1851 where she becomes embroiled in a sinister plot to assassinate Queen Victoria. Time slips are acceptable in making historical fiction meaningful and alive, especially when witnessed and interpreted by people whose language and life experience is familiar to the reader's. I found the start of the story tedious however, as the author introduces Katie's dysfunctional rock star mother and paints the picture of a girl who feels lonely, perhaps even unwanted as her mother meets a series of unsuitable men with whom she conducts brief and unfulfilling relationships. The reader is also made aware that Katie has visions of tormented figures, strangely dressed, whom she instinctively understands are from an earlier century. This is uninspiring and clumsy. Katie escapes into her private world of literature, reading widely and eclectically and it is whilst she reads a published series of letters written by Princess Alice, one of Queen Victoria's six daughters that she falls asleep and awakens in Alice's bedroom. Making friends with Alice and James, the son of the Royal Doctor, Katie learns that a movement is afoot to murder the Queen and the trio investigates, skulking about the Palace's labyrinth of secret chambers and corridors whilst following intruders in the dead of night. Fantasy elements aside, the story is laughably implausible, given the confines of regal households of the time and the most ungainly conversations and thought monologues occur as the author awkwardly attempts to inform the reader and develop the plot. As the characters seek to understand how and why Katie time traveled, whilst attempting to keep her presence secret, a major feature of the story in the construction of the Crystal Palace for the 1851 London Exhibition is introduced. This is genuinely interesting and educational yet I felt that the story could have been so much more appealing had the author explained the Royal genealogy and details of national history earlier and more clearly. At the conclusion, I was left thinking that the author had a justifiable fascination with this period but assumed readers were similarly informed. Whilst much of this novel is excruciating to the adult reader, hopefully teenagers will be captivated by the fantasy, mystery and action so that they are unaware of the various flaws.
Rob Welsh

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