When I spoke at length about ‘They Mostly…’ in my previous review, I was quite vocal about one particular plot twist that came off both as predictable, and immersion-breaking. I’m glad to say, ‘The Owl Queen’s Court’ is bustling with one twist after another and not one of them will spoil your experience. As a matter of fact, the final chapter is packed with twists and turns, all of which thrilled and surprised me with the direction in which they took the fantastic main characters, Bradan and Nascha.
It’s difficult not to draw parallels between Patrick’s first novel and this one, for the sole reason that his skill has blossomed so. My respect for the author’s skill in weaving fairy tales and myths to create a memorable world has only grown. This time around, the connection between the folk tales after each chapter and the events of these chapters is more evident—and packs more of an emotional punch because of it.
And what of the main characters? Bradan is the son of Lonan, the first Yarnsworld novel’s protagonist and everyone’s favourite super-powered madman in this one. Bradan has always wanted to be a hero, a young man whose desire is to crawl out of his father’s shadow and burn much brighter. It’s not a selfish desire. Bradan’s first and foremost thought is always of the denizens of the Magpie’s forest, and his loyalty to and desire to protect the people makes for an interesting moral core to the story, and places him smack in the middle of the conflict between two powerful god-like entities – the Magpie Spirit and the Lady.
That’s one side of the conflict. For the other, we have Nascha to thank for. A servant girl blessed with the Owl Spirit’s gifts but poisoned all her life to suppress them, Nascha is someone I grew to like an awful lot because of the amount of character growth she goes through in the span of this novel. From a cowardly servant, Nascha grows into a brave and powerful young woman whose decisions speak of a great deal of agency of the character. From a damsel in distress saved by a charming Gentleman Fox (it’s a long story), Nascha grows to a hero I was beyond excited to read about. And her enemies are no joke – a Titonidae nobleman intent on ending Nascha’s life for her white hair, which signifies her blessing from the Owl Spirit, and an affronted lover, intent on vengeance, blessed by another of the Great Spirits. Add these to the abovementioned mix, and what you end up with could be a down-right mess. . . but thanks to Benedict Patrick’s skilful juggling of these plot threads, and more, the end result is a story which engrosses for hours and hours, with its compelling characters, rich world and several moral dilemmas, which get resolved in unexpected ways.
Do I have any pet peeves? You bet! None of them will I discuss here, since they mostly go into spoiler territory, and I am unwilling to spoil a single twist in here – and besides, none of these pet peeves takes away from my enjoyment, nor did they affect my reading of the novel in any way. I was never pulled away from the book – always, instead, immersed in the world.
And I dare say, you will be too.
I give this novel a 9 out of 10, or a 4.5 out of 5, which I am happy to bump to a 5/5 on Goodreads! This is a very fine book, and I hope you’ll give it a chance. You don’t need to have read any of the other Yarnsworld novels either, though ‘They Mostly Come Out at Night’ certainly provides a lot of context.
My closing thoughts? Take heed, all ye edgy writers of fantasy and fairy tales: This is how you write a dark story without a whiff of gratuitous violence! In all seriousness, Benedict Patrick has tapped into something riveting with this mixture of dark fantasy and darker fairy tale, and his Yarnsworld universe is well on its way to earning recognition well beyond what it has so far garnered.
‘In the Shadow of the Owl Queen’s Court’ was released on September 26th, and I’m really pissed off I didn’t finish it until two days later; but life gets in the way sometimes. I got an ARC of this along with the first one, from the author, in return for an honest review.