Queene of Light
I’ve been curious about Armintrout’s vampire series, so I was happy to read the first book of her newest series, Lightworld/Darkworld. The worldbuilding was well-done and interesting, but the character development and budding romance were sadly lacking. Had I felt more connected to the characters and to their relationship, Queene of Light would have garnered a recommendation, but, alas, it was just a bit better than average.
The story occurs hundreds of years in the future. Mankind learned that fairy tales are real and delved into magic. Through the humans’ actions, the veil between the worlds was torn and supernatural beings flooded the earth. At first, the humans were driven Underground, into the sewers and tunnels they’d created, but eventually, they overcame the otherworldly beings and forced them Underground. Now, the Underground is separated into the Lightworld and the Darkworld, though the designations don’t necessarily mean the good and the bad. Vampires, werewolves, demons, angels, banished Humans, and others occupy the Darkworld, while faeries, dragons, pixies, and more live in the Lightworld. The Queene of the Faeries is generally thought to keep control over the Lightworld, but the Darkworld has no higher power and is more chaotic and lawless.
Ayla is a half-Faery, half-Human creature who was accepted into the Lightworld about five years ago. Before that she lived with her Human father on the Strip, a neutral zone between the borders of the two worlds. She is immensely proud of her Faery heritage and has been taught to be ashamed of her Human half. Humans are not allowed into the Lightworld, as they are considered enemies of the inhabitants there. So, it means a lot to Ayla that she is part of the Queene’s Assassins Guild. As a trained Assassin, she receives orders from the Guild Master and kills enemies of the realm. She owes her acceptance and current life to her mentor, Garret, who is the brother of the Queene. But we soon learn that Garret has specific plans regarding Ayla and her future place in their world.
While on a mission to dispatch a Werewolf, Ayla discovers a Death Angel. Not many Faeries know much about the Angels, and they are almost thought to be myth. When the Angel swoops down to kill Ayla, he touches her and his immortality is drained from him. Death Angels are not allowed to touch mortals, so Malachi finds himself suddenly mortal and has only one person to blame. After simply wishing for death, he vows vengeance on the person he thought was simply a Faery. Ayla goes back to the Lightworld with guilt gnawing at her. She’s broken her Assassin’s vow that she must show no mercy and kill enemies of her world. By not killing the Angel when she had the chance, she’s brought shame to her position. But now there is a bond between the two that, try as they might, can’t be broken.
The worldbuilding was the best feature of the book. The idea that huge races of supernatural beings live in the subway and sewer tunnels underneath us is very intriguing. The creatures and banished humans can stare up through grates to view the sunshine and many long for a return to the Upworld. At one point, protesting humans from above drop dried goods, like cans of soup and packets of ramen noodles, through the grates. The world was very immediate thanks to the careful details, and it was the main reason I kept turning the pages.
The weakest feature was the character interaction, or at least the couple interaction. I felt like I knew Ayla (she was really the main character), but Malachi was still a puzzle at the end of the story. The book is billed as a paranormal romance, but I don’t really agree with that category. It feels much more like a straight fantasy. Ayla and Malachi state that they’re in love with each other, but I didn’t see any real evidence of such feelings. And the ending indicated no HEA, at least not one that I would believe. The two meet, then separate, then meet, then separate, over and over and so little time is spent together, let alone talking to each other that I have no idea where love comes into play. That part of the plot also felt very disjointed and somewhat forced. Ayla’s interaction with other characters is richer and more intriguing than that shared with her supposed true love.
Queene of Light could have been really great had I felt more connected to the characters. The background was rich and I would have enjoyed remaining in the world for the next couple books, but when I finished reading, I wasn’t satisfied with the characters and so didn’t care to continue with the series. A fascinating world is all well and good, but without three-dimensional characters or a well-developed relationship, the story didn’t rise above the pack.