The Fallen Queen
The House of Arkhangel'sk
by Jane Kindred
Copyright © December 2011
eBook ISBN: 978-1937044527
Heaven can go to hell.
Until her cousin slaughtered the supernal family, Anazakia's father ruled the Heavens, governing noble Host and Fallen peasants alike. Now Anazakia is the last grand duchess of the House of Arkhangel'sk, and all she wants is to stay alive.
Hunted by Seraph assassins, Anazakia flees Heaven with two Fallen thieves--fire demon Vasily and air demon Belphagor, each with their own nefarious agenda--who hide her in the world of Man. The line between vice and virtue soon blurs, and when Belphagor is imprisoned, the unexpected passion of Vasily warms her through the Russian winter.
Heaven seems a distant dream, but when Anazakia learns the truth behind the celestial coup, she will have to return to fight for the throne--even if it means saving the man who murdered everyone she loved.
Epic Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Romance, Angels, Demons, Heaven and Earth. I have been waiting for a chance to read The Fallen Queen for quite some time now. I've had the privilege of catching some snippets of the book while playing on Twitter, and the concept intrigued me, so I jumped at the chance to get my hands on an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of the book. The Fallen Queen is full of angels and demons, but not in the way you might think. Jane Kindred has taken the story of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia and the fall of Imperial Russia and blended it with fantasy, with current day Heaven being a reflection of the happenings of Russia, 1918, down to the rumors of the escape of Anastasia. The result is an engaging tale which takes the reader through a maze of political intrigue, assassinations, and romance.
The book opens in the realm of Heaven with the Grand Duchess Anazakia Helisonovna of the House of Arkhangel'sk, a mere seventeen-year-old, playing against a demon in a game of chance at a wingcasting table in Raqia -- a city of the Fallen in Heaven, and home to several dens of iniquity, such as the Brimstone where our Angel gambled her crystals away. And just like that -- I was hooked. Raqia, the Brimstone, just the names set the atmosphere for what was to come. And opening with an Angel at a wingcasting table? Superb.
Our Angel, Anazakia, is a rather self-absorbed person at the beginning of the book, looking for fun and adventure, and didn't realize she had brought on more adventure than she could handle. Using a form of magic, she split her essence, so there was a version of herself left at home to attend balls, or dinners, things that Anazakia herself would find boring, while the real Anazakia would sneak out of the palace and head to Raqia to experience life.
It is during one of these forays to Raqia when she finds herself at the wingcasting table facing the demon Belphagor, and is gambling away her crystals while her family is violently slain by her cousin Kae -- including the shade of herself.
And lest you think that since this book is about Angels and Demons there are religious overtones to it -- there are not. Angels are the Host and reflective of nobility and the supernal (imperial) family. Demons represent the peasant class. And in this peasant class is Belphagor, The Prince of Tricks, and the hero of the piece. Here is Anazakia's description of Belphagor upon their first meeting:
Raqia's reigning prince that night was a dark-haired demon with eyes as sharp as the waxed points of his hair. He played his hand as cool as you please and barely seemed to notice me, but he put nearly card I discarded into play with his own and soon had me hemorrhaging both cards and crystal.
Smoke burned my eyes as the demon nursed his cigar in a deliberate distraction. When he took it between his fingers, I could not help following with my eyes. Beneath the tattered lace of his cuffs, black crosses and diamonds, interlaced with characters of an unfamiliar alphabet, braced his fingers between the knuckles like rings made of ink.
Kindred hooks the reader from the start and takes them on a wild chase from Heaven to the terrestrial plane of man, with the Grand Duchess in the care of two demons as she flees for her life. A brilliantly executed story and one any fantasy lover must read. Jane Kindred is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and would highly recommend you read The Devil's Garden, a novella by Kindred which I reviewed in August while waiting for the release on December 6th of The Fallen Queen.