While ‘The Queen of All Crows’ is the first book in a series, it isn’t the first novel in a world which Rod Duncan has been building for quite some time. That being said, you (thankfully) won’t have to have read his last book to truly enjoy this outing if you love steampunk alternate history. “The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire” looks to be an excellent series to set up this steampunk world but isn’t required reading to jump in here.
‘The Queen of All Crows’ is Duncan’s first installment in the “The Map of Unknown Things” and easily works as a stand-alone introduction as we meet Elizabeth Barnabus who is a detective. The known world is run by the Patent Office who has strict control over all new technology, and she hates them due to the downfall of her family at the company’s hand. Only now, she is being forced to work with them.
In a world where technology is not allowed to be developed outside of the Patent Office, we see a fragile peace across the land. However, when an airship with Elizabeth’s best friend is shot down, she not only loses her friend Julia but has to work with the company she hates to try and find out what happened and try to get her back before its too late.
It isn’t long though before we find out the pirates who have attacked the airship are using a new form of weapon. Something is happening beyond the borders of civilized society, and a war is looming which could put everyone in the Empire in danger from the great unknown.
In ‘The Queen of All Crows,’ Rod Duncan not only delivers a solid story that you’ll enjoy full of action and a well-paced layout but amazing characters as well. Elizabeth Barnabus could quite possibly be one of my favorite new strong female leads in fiction, and I’m eager to see where he takes her in the second book for this series. Not only is she smart and entertaining but she has to work twice as hard in a society where women are treated by just about everyone as second-class citizens, and her ability to rise above this helps to draw you into the character that much more.
‘The Queen of All Crows’ is a fun romp in an alternate Earth which is set in modern times yet still trapped in a very different age.