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Queen Rat by Kim Lakin-Smith

Queen Rat by Kim Lakin-Smith
Book Name: Queen Rat
Author: Kim Lakin-Smith
Publisher(s): Murkee
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): YA Steampunk / Middle Grade Steampunk
Release Date: January 1, 2012 (UK) January 31, 2012 (US)

Queen Rat was first published in 2012 by Murky Depths, but it’s just been released as an ebook. And as it’s been sitting on my TBR pile for a while, I thought it was an opportune time to review it. The story is a slab of steampunky fun aimed at older children or young young-adults. It’s the story of Princess Ratiana Clementine Saint John, who prefers to be known as Rat.

Rat lives on the submersive Victoriana, a floating undersea colony of pirates and ner-do-wells ruled over by her eccentric (if we’re being charitable, barking mad if we’re not) parents. She is destined to marry Prince Simeon of the Aesthetes, another submersive tribe, but only if they can overcome the Rites of Mind, Body, and Soul…and Possible Death. How Rat and Simeon manage to overcome their differences and work together forms the core of the book, which is bubbling over with big splendid ideas, almost too many ideas for its short length.

Each of the four nations of undersea-dwellers is well defined, and each of them have their own distinctive traps and puzzles for Rat and Simeon to cope with: tests of strength, intelligence, courage and, most perilous of all, dancing ability. And with every test Rat and Simeon’s relationship develops, as they learn more about each other, and how though they come from very different worlds, they’re more alike than they first realised.

The characterisation is brilliant – raggle-taggle Rat is funny and charming, but it’s some of the minor characters, like her parents, who really steal the show. A few, like the terrifying ladies who take charge of the dancing challenge, could have stepped straight from the pages of a Roald Dahl book.

However, the book is too short; it’s so tightly focussed on Rat and Simeon that there’s not enough room for a wider look into the deeply fascinating world Kim Lakin-Smith has created, nor the calamity that brought about this strange undersea setting full of conflict and division and giant wandering submersible cities. I suppose this makes sense in a YA book which is essentially about relationships, but the fantasy fan in me is always greedy for more and Queen Rat, while very good for what it is, is a light snack when it has the potential to be a three-course meal.


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