Series: Paradox #3
Published by Orbit Books on April 22, 2014
Genres: adult, science fiction
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell's doomed ship, Devi Morris' life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that's eating her alive.
Now, with the captain missing and everyone -- even her own government -- determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi's never been one to shy from a fight, and she's getting mighty sick of running.
It's time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.
So here’s the deal: Heaven’s Queen is fine. If you enjoyed where the series seemed to be heading in book two, if you think Rupert and Devi are interesting together, if you don’t particularly care for the parts of the story where Devi fights in her robot suit… You’ll like this book. It will seem fitting and appropriate, you will be warm and happy, and you’ll agree with the majority of readers on Goodreads, where it currently has a rating over four stars.
What follows will contain minor spoilers for the previous books in this series.
If you started this series because you were interested in a story about a badass female mercenary who unapologetically sleeps around (you know, a man in every port and all that), and who fights in an awesome robot suit, you may come out of it feeling a little bit betrayed. Devi’s not a character who NEEDS a will-they-won’t-they romantic storyline. She’s a Ripley, a Starbuck, a Sarah Connor; her strength lies in her ability to focus on her mission and protect the people who need her. If you give her a big, strong, stoic man to lean on, she loses a great deal of what made her fascinating to begin with. Characters can and should grow and change, but those changes have to be earned or they don’t mean anything, and–what’s worse–they break the contract between the writer and the reader.
I can spend hours and hours discussing stories (why the series finale of Breaking Bad was so good, why The Killing should have revealed who killed Rosie Larsen at the end of season one, why it’s problematic that that one dude had a tail in Orphan Black, why viewers are able to forget that big romantic heroes in two CW shows (Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries) committed rape in the first seasons of those shows), and what creators owe the fans of their properties. I tend to be more forgiving of variations from what was promised when the first book in a series is published before the last book is written, and I believe this series falls into that category, so I don’t want to be overly harsh. But… you can’t rewrite what’s already been published. It’s there. We read it. It’s canon. You can’t show me a quiet, friendly dude who serves as the cook on a spaceship but can morph into a badass alien creature when fighting time arrives, then show him immediately fall in love with our heroine, like, the instant he meets her, and then show him behave all mealy-mouthed and whiny when his job requires that he do terrible things to said heroine, only to have people show up in later books and tell us that this dude was The Ultimate in cold, badass motherfuckers until he met (of course) the heroine. I agree that that last bit makes for a more interesting story (although it’s such a cliche), but it’s not the one we were told from the beginning of book one, so it doesn’t work. Rupert was shown to be kind of a weak man in books one and two, so his weakness as the series progresses doesn’t feel like the drastic character change his friends claim it is.
And it undermines the romance, which, by the beginning of book two, is the central, angsty focus of the series. When you write a romance, it’s like… OK. Brace yourself for a truly terrible simile, and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Ready? It’s like a latte. You can spend as much time as you need selecting your ingredients and anticipating what it will taste like, but once you heat the milk, you have to drink it while it’s hot. You can’t re-heat milk that has been sitting at room temperature because there’s a high risk of exposure to harmful bacteria. If you’re planning to re-heat it, you MUST refrigerate it so that the milk is properly cold again, and then you may re-heat it ONCE. If it cools again, it’s garbage that will give you food poisoning. This series reheats that milk like fourteen fucking times, and it’s only three books long. You’re generally allowed ONE break-up over the course of a series, and the characters really have to earn the right to be together again after that. If the characters get back together and break up again, the audience loses faith in the viability of that couple, and you need to move on. Devi and Rupert could have moved on after they first split up early in Fortune’s Pawn and then managed to get back together in book three–I’d have bought that, because they would have realized, through being apart, that they were better together. But instead we get this tepid slog that goes on and on and just will not stop being boring.
It wasn’t just Rupert and the romance, though. I wanted more of Devi fighting in her robot suit (why is it always across the room being cleaned when she needs it? She’s the best mercenary in the known universe; this ain’t her first rodeo). I wanted her not to be terrible to her former lover when he shows up on what he believes is a rescue mission. I really wanted the child slavery aspects to resolve differently. I wanted a lot of things I can’t mention because they are major spoilers. Ultimately, Heaven’s Queen just massively disappointed me (although it still gets three stars because it is a Space Adventure Book). I don’t think I’ve ever been more bummed about my status as a black sheep.
Have you read any of the Paradox series yet? Do you agree with me about Romance Botulism? Let me know in the comments. (FYI: I am vacationing in Paris this month, and I don’t have great access to regular internet, so I may take a while to respond to comments.)
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.