September 14, 2015

Book Review: Queen of the Deep by Kay Kenyon

Publication Date: January 4, 2015

Source: Netgalley

On the streets of New York, Jane Gray meets an intriguing man who claims to be the impossible: an imaginary playmate from her childhood: Prince Starling. Determined to know the truth, Jane tracks him into another realm.

This is the world of the Palazzo, a magical ship which is both a colossal steam vessel and a Renaissance kingdom. Ruling over its denizens--both human and otherwise--is an exotic and dangerous queen. Jane must find her way home, but the path is hopelessly lost.

Promising romance, the enigmatic Prince Starling and big-hearted crime lord Niccolo vie for Jane's heart. But she has her eye on the pilot house. Who--or what--guides the Palazzo, and what is the urgent secret of its endless voyage? As a shocking destination looms into view, Jane must choose both a lover and a ship's course, one that may avoid the end of all things.

I was drawn to Queen of the Deep because the synopsis reminded me faintly of Labyrinth, the movie: a young girl whose imagination leads her to befriend creatures from another world, one more dazzling and dangerous than our own.  Yet, a few chapters in, that comparison faded away as the world of the Palazzo, a Renaissance Italy-like magical world, held me in its thrall.

I came in with preconceived ideas of how the plot would unfold but time and again Kenyon subverted my expectations and wowed me with her inventiveness, her world building and unpredictable twists.  Most fascinating of all is the Palazzo, a floating ship of immense size, traveling through the ether to get to the golden sea where it can replenish its magical fuel. Or so it seems.

But as Jane quickly figures out, nothing and no one is at seems. Used to nimbly thinking on her feet and quickly inhabiting roles as a theater actress, Jane completely immerses herself into this new world. Her allegiances and intentions change with each new revelation, until she finds out the shocking and deadly truth about the Palazzo and her role in it.

“...But that was only the beginning of the contradictions that, in the morning’s light, she was starting to list rather than avoid: A man from the Renaissance had rescued her from a train collision. He had come for her in the heart of New York City just at the time she needed him the most. Following him, she had traversed a physically impossible dark room, learning through visions in iced-over doorways that the world was going to end. Then, evading monsters of her childhood imagination, she entered a world with a drowned sun and botched an interview with a queen, learning that she could never go home.

“This wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare.”

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