It’s not easy being queen
Everyone knows that the “Old King” is good, the prince is charming, and the princess is pretty as something pink and vaguely sick-making. But a solo queen? Makes people nervous. If she’s successful, historians will complain that she’s too much like a man. (Boudicca? She painted herself blue and thought she was a goddess, you know. Elizabeth 1? She had affairs with half of England, they say. And don’t even get us started on Catherine the Great and that horse…) Oh yeah, queening is a tough gig, especially if you’re in it solo for the power and the long haul.
And just when you do finally get the whole country marching in the same direction and your evil HR gets your henchperson recruiting fully operational (that referral bonus was a great idea), and you’re ready to kick back on your throne and relax—what happens? Some magical girl kisses a prince (or a frog—honestly, those princesses aren’t too discriminating) and next thing you know you’re out of a job. Oh, and probably dead too. For those who might be considering Evil Queen as a career choice, despite the frankly depressing lack of job security and any sort of retirement plan, I suggest you consider the following suggestions first.
- Don’t cast a spell on the Rightful Heir turning him into a beast or a frog or gargoyle or anything that Princess PrettyAs might even remotely consider puckering up for. Much better to make him a rattlesnake or cockroach or something that could easily get squished like a spider or slug.
- Have a word with the Royal Dressmakers, and point out that “wicked evil” doesn’t necessarily have to be synonymous with “slut”, plus you might need an ensemble that allows you to move quickly if a Magical Girl shows up with a Powers Upgrade. But, of course, keep at least one skanky number in case you need to seduce the wisecracking-but-smoking-hot hero and then make him believe you’re pregnant with “their” child (although, really…wouldn’t it just be easier to blast him with your magic or your…um…blaster to start with? You must have at least a couple of potential lovers among the henchpersons, and they come with the added advantage that they could be doing useful henching during the day. I didn’t just say “come with” did I?)
- Do not immediately slay lovers who fail to meet your admittedly high expectations. That kind of thing gets around and could really backfire in terms of performance anxiety for future potential partners.
- If you do go to all the trouble of stealing and arming the Weapon of Nuclear/Ultimate Destruction, have a bunch of aging Star Trek fans on retainer to look over all the plans and eliminate the secret flaw that would have let the heroes destroy it in the nick of time. And while you’re at it, put a giant count-down timer showing the exact time that it will go off, but set to at least five minutes after the actual explosion. The timer should be in a control room full of fancy blinking lights and dials, which actually only control the temperature in the restrooms. The real controls should be in the Staff Lounge behind the bulletin board where Evil HR posts all the required workplace safety info. Nobody ever looks there.
- If you need to find the Magical Girl who is destined to destroy you, you should send your strongest, fiercest henchpersons out for bagels and lox. While they’re gone, tell every internet troll that Magical Girl is a female gamer, female presidential candidate, and an inveterate puppy-kicking female who wants to take away their guns. Along with an online terror campaign beyond anything you could dream up, they will have her complete contact details and address splashed across the internet within hours.
I only bring this up because my guest today, Shelley Wilson, is a master of the Evil Queen trope and absolutely nails it in her new release, Guardians of the Sky.
Guardians of the Sky (Book Two of The Guardians) by S.L. Wilson
Can one girl sacrifice herself to save the one she loves…
Following their daring escape from the demon realm, Amber and her friends become caught up in a war between good and evil. They must join forces with the Queen’s warriors to overthrow a malevolent force that has spread across Avaveil, the land of the Fae.
As her powers grow, Amber is faced with the real possibility that she is a danger to the ones she loves. Her full strength is yet to be tested in a way she can’t comprehend.
Dragons, faeries and humans stand side-by-side as they are drawn into a cunning battle of magic and surprising revelations. Can Amber survive long enough to see her dreams fulfilled?
In my review of the first book in this series, I talked about how author Shelley Wilson nailed the elements of the magical girl coming-of-age story. She continues to apply those tropes in Guardians of the Sky. But now she goes deeper into almost all of them:
- The Chosen One: No longer reluctant, Amber now accepts and embraces her role in restoring the kingdom to its rightful Queen. But she see that as her ultimate goal, and fully expects to return to her mundane world, even if it means leaving behind the young prince she has fallen in love with.
- Turn Sixteen, Hello Hell: Now invested with paranormal powers, Amber is still a moody, hormonal teen—making those powers unstable and dangerous.
- Muggle Best Friend:Amber’s best friend Tom’s enthusiasm for the local life and magical—including his attraction to one woman there—pulls the friends in different directions.
- Fairy tale elements.Every magical girl story from Bewitched to Buffy draws on a rich fairy and folk tale tradition. Author Shelley Wilson has done her homework, and she pretty much nails these:
- Evil Stepmom (ESM): And….she’s baaack! When Amber’s mother disappeared ten years earlier, her father lost no time in remarrying. Her new stepmother, Patricia, is just about the scariest ESM ever—“Her perfectly groomed hair was scooped into a flamboyant updo; she wore a pink Juicy Couture tracksuit with matching manicure and pedicure, and was smirking.” Patricia is the ESM we love to hate, and luckily for readers (if not Amber), she’s back and creepier than ever.
- Magic Power Upgrade:In the first book, Amber discovers that she has an ancestor/Fairy Godmother type who shows up to provide answers and support at key moments. This time, the FGM brought the family, and they’re not messing around with that “the magic is in you” nonsense—it’s time for a magical power upgrade to add to the awesome.
- Fairy Companion:Teen fae prince Radka suffers from Prince Charming Personality Disorder, but Amber still has the hots for him. In fact, since their respective mothers have ordered them to stay apart, the most they can manage is some nicely-described PG snogging.
At the beginning, I had a few issues with the storyline. For me, there was way too much backstory that dragged down the beginning chapters. In Book Two, the Magic Power Upgrades still seem to occur in the nick of time, along with corresponding Villain Power Upgrades. (Last time Amber fought a general, this time it’s an Evil Queen, and next time…?) She doesn’t spend much time getting familiar with her new powers, but that actually becomes a recurring joke as everyone watches to see what over-the-top fire/explosion/destruction occurs when she does use them. The prince, despite being her love interest, has almost no personality to me. I think I’d care more about their relationship if he had some flaws and karmic angst. Amber’s mother is also an emotional dark hole. I have no real sense of what she feels for the daughter whose childhood she missed, or even for her absent husband.
But for me as a reader, it was great to note author Shelley Wilson’s leap forward in her confidence and mastery of the craft. Main character Amber shows much more depth, both in her romantic life and in her emotional growth. For example, when speaking to the warrior/traitor Aaron, Amber is amazed to recognize a kindred emotion:
“How could this evil warrior, who beat horses and slapped girls across the face, be so similar to her? She understood that need to belong. It was why she was in Avaveil. She had followed the dream of a reunited family and a better time.”
I was also delighted that (at least for this book), the author gave up on that hoary YA bastion, the love triangle. And while that meant that Connor—whose personality was in fact more fully dimensional than that of the fae prince Radka—had a more ambiguous role in this book, it did at least spare us the triangle. There was a respectably scary evil technology that threatened every magical creature, although I couldn’t help wondering why (and I’m struggling to put this in a non-spoiler way) the ones who had access to that evil tech didn’t grab its power for themselves. But—and this is what brings the whole book up to five stars for me—Wilson not only answers that question at the end, but uses it to springboard us into the next volume, while at the same time brilliantly wrapping up the details of the current story arc.
I absolutely love it when a series author knows how to use a little cliffhanger to get us to the next volume while satisfying us that the existing story arc is nicely finished off. And I can’t wait until December for Guardians of the Lost Lands, the next book in this delightful series.
I reviewed Guardians of the Sky (Book 2 in her Guardians series) by Shelley Wilson for Rosie’s Book Review Team.
*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*
- Book Title & Preview: Guardians of the Sky (Book 2, Guardians series)
- Author: S. L. Wilson
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publisher: Amazon
- Length: 157 pages
- Release Date: 21 January, 2016