3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
The May Queen by Patrick Axford is a fantasy novel that stars Isolde, a Sentinel who is assigned to the village of Sanctuary, where her predecessor has gone missing and a boy has been found dead. The first half of the book revolves around her quest to uncover the secrets of Sanctuary, while the second half has some of the traditional fantasy violence and action. I have to say, it's nice to see a fantasy book that doesn't rely upon the tried-and-true concept of the main character undergoing some kind of journey, and this format worked well for The May Queen. The first part was tense and atmospheric, while the second part was climactic and exciting.
Since most of the book takes place in the village of Sanctuary itself, its environment and inhabitants had to be brought to life throughout the story. While I would've quite liked to have other villagers come into play more, the characters that do interact with Isolde are vibrant and interesting. The different parts of Sanctuary, from the house Isolde stays in to the fields surrounding it, are also portrayed in an immersive way. The writing is metaphorical enough to convey emotion while still getting across what actually takes place in each scene.
I was also quite impressed with the fighting scenes. Isolde faces up against a variety of opponents, ranging from men with delusions of grandeur to a horrifying monster, and each fight was distinct and exciting. Besides fighting with a sword, Isolde can also use a form of magic. Its boundaries were never strictly defined, and while I can see some people becoming annoyed about the unclear limits of her power, I thought the way she used magic to gain an edge in each encounter was clever and added to the experience.
The book does have a few flaws, though. Most importantly, the editing leaves something to be desired. The difference between "its" and "it's" isn't always recognized, and there are several instances of homonym confusion. These usually aren't enough to be seriously distracting, but they still made the book feel rather unpolished. It seems like the book wasn't closely edited, as these are things that could've easily been fixed.
The other flaw, in my opinion, is the book's reliance on well-known and often harmful clichés. For example, practically every villain is also implied to be a rapist in some way, the only lesbian in the book is evil, and women are initially described primarily by how beautiful they are or are not. When these elements came up, they immediately broke immersion for me. They're just too common in fiction for me to take seriously, and they always detracted from the otherwise fantastical world Axford was describing.
If I could, I would rate The May Queen 2.5 out of 4 stars. At the end of the day, though, it was very fun to read despite its flaws. For that reason, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. People who are squeamish about gore or sexual content should stay away from this book, but it's a great choice for older audiences who love fantasy novels with intrigue and well-developed characters.
The May Queen
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like ViziVoir's review? Post a comment saying so!