(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
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.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
First off, don’t let the perceived love triangle in the blurb fool you. Queen of the Deep is a magnificent story where a stereotypical love triangle really, really isn’t all that it appears to be. And that really goes for the whole book: when you think you’re certain of one aspect of the world Kay Kenyon has created, you find your assumptions are wrong. It’s a really amazing book in that respect.
Obviously, what I loved about Queen of the Deep is the world-building. At first it seems like Kenyon went for the whole ‘met mysterious man at a young age, meets him later and is attracted to him’ trope but as I hinted, that’s really not the case. And when Jane Gray ventures from New York city to the floating world of the Palazzo, very little is as it seems. Kenyon leaves tiny hints for clever readers to pick up on, but for the most part I was so entranced by her writing style that I didn’t notice all of the little hints until the various plot twists actually happened. Then it made sense why the Queen of the Palazzo, Diamonde was so interested in Jane and why Prince Starling saved Jane’s life, etc.
The Palazzo is a magical Renaissance-inspired floating ship that no one on board thinks is a ship. When Jane arrives on it, she’s warned not to mention that she can see over the side of the ship into the water because no one else can and they’ll think she’s crazy. While this is very odd, the reasons for why Jane can see it are absolutely fascinating. I can’t really go too much in depth about the Palazzo without spoiling so many of the amazing plot twists, but let’s just say that the ship (much like the characters) isn’t all that it appears to be. It will certainly surprise you throughout the story, particularly at the end.
Jane is a very interesting character. Normally aspiring actresses are so stereotypical but Jane really transcends the usual clichés. She’s broke but she works a second job and actually studies her craft rather than whining about not getting any parts. She goes to auditions and tries hard which actally serves her quite well when she finds herself on board the Palazzo and must start her life from scratch again. In the beginning Jane can be a bit blind to the motivations of those around her but she definitely shifts her worldview as she learns that sometimes the obvious villains are actually on her side and that apparently kind people can be cruel. She really does grow as a person throughout the story and because of that, the ending was very satisfying.
The only possible downside to this book is that it’s not exactly fast-paced. It’s very interesting and Kenyon’s writing style is absolutely enchanting but if you’re looking for a thriller, this isn’t the book for you. I had a bit of a hard time getting oriented when Jane came on board the Palazzo but in the end I actually enjoyed the confusion because I got to learn along with Jane rather than knowing more than her and getting frustrated at her perceived incompetence. Really, this is just a fascinating book with plenty of plot twists and great writing. You don’t need an extremely fast-paced plot for a book like this.
If you enjoy fantasy and are interested in trying something new for a change, Queen of the Deep is definitely the book for you. It will surprise you, as it certainly surprised me.
I give this book 5/5 stars.