Publisher: Angry Robot (Trade Paperback – 1 November 2022)
Series: Standalone/Book One
Length: 407 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
For some fun fantasy heist goodness, make sure to check out the awesome recent release from Dan Koboldt, Silver Queendom.
I am always on the lookout for very fun sounding books, especially in the fantasy genre, and I was lucky enough to come across a particularly outstanding example of this late last year with Silver Queendom. The latest novel from intriguing author Dan Koboldt, Silver Queendom had an outstanding plot to it that blended fantasy fiction with a compelling heist storyline. I cannot emphasise how awesome this plot sounded when I first heard it, and it ended up living up to my expectations as a fantastic and exciting read.
In a disreputable corner of the queendom of Rethalta lies the notorious Red Rooster inn, a place of poor ale and even worse service. Seen over by grouchy innkeeper Darin, beautiful, if lazy, barmaid Evie and gigantic bouncer Big Tom, the Red Rooster attracts few paying customers. Luckily, the staff of the Red Rooster have other ways of making money, as they are secretly one of the best team of thieves and con artists in the entire Old Queendom.
However, when their latest job goes bust and the find themselves owing the wrong crime boss a load of money they do not have, Darin and his team are going to have to get inventive if they want to survive. A chance meeting with a mysterious stranger offers the best possibility of paying off their debt when they are tasked with stealing a cart of the most valuable substance on the continent, imperial dreamwine from the Jewel Empire. Created through secretive means and capable of mentally transporting the drinker to their version of heaven, dreamwine is worth its weight in gold, and is infinitely more precious. It is also impossible to steal, as the elite warriors of the Jewel Empire guard it fanatically, ensuring that it always reaches its destination.
With time running out before their debt is called in, the Red Rooster crew have no choice but to take the job and attempt to steal the unstealable. Teaming up with the inn’s new brewmaster, Kat, Darin begins to work out a master plan that will allow them to steal the wine and get paid. But between rival gangs, a traitor in their midst, their own nefarious employer, and the horde of angry soldiers from the Jewel Empire hunting them down, survival doesn’t look likely. However, the Red Rooster crew are the best for a reason, and they are just getting started.
Silver Queendom was an extremely compelling and fast-paced novel that I had an outstanding time reading. Told from the perspective of four outrageous characters, Silver Queendom takes the audience on an intriguing journey of crime and cons in a cool new fantasy setting. Starting with an amusing party scene that quickly and efficiently shows off the protagonist’s main character traits, as well as their relevant skills and personalities, you are soon dragged into the story as the characters engage in a series of early cons and schemes while also bonding as a team. You grow to quickly appreciate the protagonists and the way that the author blends unique fantasy elements with great crime thriller storylines, even before you get to the main heist. I must admit that I was a tad surprised at how long it took the author to reach the theft of the imperial dreamwine, as I thought that plan would be introduced closer to the start of the book. Instead, Koboldt eased the reader into this central plot point, taking the time to establish the team, the setting, and some of the other players in the story, which helped to increase the anticipation for the main heist.
The second half of the book is all about the quest for the dreamwine as the protagonists start pulling together their scheme to steal the treasure and get away with it. Koboldt does a good job laying out just enough of the heist plans in advance to keep the reader intrigued without giving away the whole game. At the same time, additional obstacles are built up for the protagonists, including disputes within the team, rival players, and even their own duplicitous employers. Everything comes to a head in the fantastic heist part of the book, which really shows off Koboldt’s flair for writing elaborate sequences of utter chaos. The way that the heist unfolds is very clever and quite funny, especially as they plan all manner of insane surprises that come together in quite an entertaining way. While I do think that some of the inevitable double-crosses were a little too predictable and solved in some coincidental fashions, the rest of the plot unfolds in an amazing way, and I loved how most of the problems were solved by the protagonists. Everyone comes away from the story extremely satisfied and there is even room for Koboldt to expand this book into a larger series, which I really hope he does. The author did a really good job of blending together the fantasy and heist elements in this book, and the unique story and characters really kept me engaged the entire way through, especially as there is a constant fast pace with a lot of humour attached. This is an overall awesome and captivating read.
While the crime story itself is a lot of fun, I was also quite impressed with the intriguing new fantasy landscape that Koboldt set out within Silver Queendom. A classic, if grim and entertaining fantasy world, Silver Queendom takes place on a large continent broken up into four separate realms. While having the continent’s four realms be broken up into near perfect quarters was a tad lazy, I felt that Koboldt did a good job of effectively conveying key parts of this world to the reader and working the crime focused plot into the new universe. The author primarily focused on one of these realms in Silver Queendom, Rethalta, where the Red Rooster inn is located, and you get a good idea of its politics and people, especially as the protagonists journey all around it getting into all manner of mischief. Koboldt also takes the time to explore elements of one of the other realms, the Jewel Empire, mainly as that is the realm the dreamwine is coming from, although certain character perspectives about it indicate the author’s plans to spend more time there in the future. These intriguing realms serve as a great background for the book and Koboldt further adds to the fantasy fun with some unique magic that was a key part of the plot. Magic in this universe primarily revolves around silver, which is a much more precious metal than gold as magic users are able to gain great power by manipulating and utilising silver. This results in several really cool scenes, especially as there are some intriguing magical abilities available that were well featured during the course of the narrative. All of these elements, and more, were quite fantastic, especially when paired with the brilliant story, and I think there is some real potential for the author to really expand this setting in future books.
Finally, I need to highlight the excellent character work contained within Silver Queendom as Koboldt introduces an excellent cast of protagonists that are very fun to follow around. As I mentioned above, the story is told from the perspective of the four main characters, each of whom has their own unique personality and history that comes into play throughout Silver Queendom. Koboldt does a great job of breaking up the story between these main characters, which produces an excellent and compelling mixture of development and personalised plots. Each of the four protagonists brings something unique to the table, whether it’s Darin Fields’s battle to control his untrained magic or ingrained hatred of the Jewel Empire, Evie Garraway’s family shame, Big Tom’s capacity for violence which is tempered by his likeable personality and occasional lapse in judgement, or maternal character Kat’s introduction to the criminal lifestyle. Throw in an outstanding supporting group of characters, which includes a humorous witch mentor, an ultra-violent rival gang, a gentile crime lord and a self-serving employer, and you have a pretty exceptional overall cast who really help to make this story just that little more personal and entertaining.
I really enjoyed Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt and I was very glad that I got a chance to read it before the end of 2022. Cleverly combining outrageous fantasy elements with an amazing heist storyline and fantastic characters, Silver Queendom is exceedingly entertaining from start to finish and you are guaranteed to have an awesome time reading it. An excellent and highly recommended read, I hope that Koboldt provides some sequel to Silver Queendom in the future, especially after impressing here.
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