PJV Quickie: If you were to take Lauren Kate’s Fallen, Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series, and E.L. James’s 50 Shades and throw them into a blender you would get Nina Mason’s THE QUEEN OF SWORDS. The main characters, Graham & Cat, have a love story very reminiscent of the romances between Daniel & Luce in Fallen (soul mates, one of whom is immortal and the other who keeps reincarnating) and Hawk & Adrianne in Beyond the Highland Mist (fae interference, hot Scottish dude from Highland times/modern every girl pairing). Where does E.L. James’s book fit into the equation? Well like Ana, Cat starts off extremely naïve and innocent for her age/intelligence and gets involved with a sexually complicated older rich guy, and there’s also a BDSM scene. THE QUEEN OF SWORDS a fun if trope-y story, with a few flaws, but it’s a good time and for the most part I enjoyed it.
Review: Even though I did mostly enjoy the book, I had one problem with it, and to me at least it’s a pretty big deal. There is a perpetuation in this book, which is supposed to be set in modern day England/Scotland, of an outdated and wholly dis-proven belief about women’s bodies, and sex. Mason mentions several times throughout the novel the incorrect idea many people still hold about the nature and function of the hymen and its use as a tool for testing someone’s virginity. Even though both MCs have at least one advanced degree and are admitted fans of pornography and erotica, apparently both still believe in the antiquated notion that the hymen completely covers the vagina and must be popped in order for a woman to have sex the first time. She further espouses this myth by wrongly stating that a hymen can only be popped by a penis. Learn about all the ways this myth is wrong in this video: FYI, Hymens Don’t Break — Here’s Some Real Talk About That ‘Pop Your Cherry’ Myth
I think the only reason I am so put off by that if because of the fact that for the female MC it is a BFD and she brings it up several times. I’m distressed because this book can and will probably appeal to teenagers who may not actually be fully informed on the realities of this myth simply because Mason portrays it the same way that a lot of pop culture does.
So that’s my big pet peeve with the book, aside from that, and some continuity errors (that have probably been smoothed out since the advanced copy I have was created), it’s a really good book. As far as vampire romances go, this one isn’t what I’ve gotten used to, and I like that a lot. The male MC is not a brooding, gorgeous teenage boy perpetually trapped in high school, and he takes a minute to appreciate that for the reader, noting that he’s lucky that he wasn’t changed until he was a man. Mason veers away from the usual vampire tropes and brings a celtic flavour to her vampire mythology. She makes a point of saying that there are MANY kinds of vampires, but acknowledges that the ones being dealt with in QUEEN OF SWORDS are of the Fae, and they don’t necessarily need blood to survive, just human DNA. That last bit brings about an interesting plot point tied to sex, I’ll let you discover that one for yourself, but I had a good laugh about it.
There are many echoes in this book of other books I’ve read. Aside from the books I mentioned above in the Quickie I also had moments where I found myself drawing parallels between Graham and Jamie from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander especially his relationship with his nemesis. The meeting between Graham and Cat in the University Library had me remembering the meeting between Diana and Matthew in A Discovery of Witches, except with more contemporary books and less magic. I can also draw several comparisons between Cat and Bella from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga although I’m sure Cat herself would object to them, but the biggest one is that for a 28 year old Professor and Doctoral Candidate though she is decidedly naïve.
Overall feelings: I enjoyed the book, I had a few issues with it, but there are very few books that I can’t find something to harp on. It’s a fun book, with a unique spin on the tropes of both of its genres. It has a good, and positive portrayal of both Wicca and the Tarot, which at one point had me envisioning both Live and Let Die and The Craft, although as I am not a practitioner of either of those I really couldn’t tell you if they were accurate. I did study a little bit about Paganism in some of my religion and culture classes and from what I know of it Mason’s portrayal seems like it hits the mark. It’s a good one shot novel and a fast read, especially if you’re in the mood for both vampires and sexy Scots.
Read this book if:
- You enjoyed any or all of the books I mentioned in the Quickie
- You like vampire romances
- You like Scottish romances
- You have at least a passing interest in Paganism or the occult
Take a pass if:
- You didn’t like at least 1 of the books mentioned in the Quickie
- You’re not a fan of mixed mythologies (fae + vampire)
- You’re looking for action, this book has a lot of exposition