Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review: The Beggar Queen by Lloyd Alexander

Title:  The Beggar Queen
Author:  Lloyd Alexander
Series:  Westmark trilogy #3
Genre:  Fantasy/young-adult
Pages:  256

Rating:  B+

Synopsis (from goodreads):  In the third and final volume of the Westmark trilogy, Michele, once a street urchin, is now queen of Westmark, a thriving kingdom with an undercurrent of unrest. Can she rule without causing even more trouble on the streets she used to call home?

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It's really hard to finish a series you started in middle school/high school when the books are out-of-print.  Fortunately for me, people had used copies on amazon and, so I lucked out and got a copy that was in great condition and had the same cover art to match the rest of the books.

Side note:  Am I the only person out there who hates it when cover art gets changed after a few years, sometimes mid-series, so then your books don't match?  It really bugs me.  An example is The Unicorn Chronicles.  Because it took Coville so many years to finish his series, the cover art changed from book 1 to book 2, and then changed again for book 3 & 4.  And they're all radically different sizes too, which drives me nuts.  I'm not usually OCD, but in the case of cover art, I guess I can be.  (I may have mentioned this before, but it was relevant to this book since I wouldn't buy a used copy that didn't match my first two.)

Back to The Beggar Queen-  I was right that the second book, The Kestrel, was really just a stepping stone to this book, because this book is action from beginning to end.  The kingdom taken, the resistance working silently, and the people uprising are just some of the exciting things that happen.  Which leads to my biggest problem with this book.  There is just so much happening in only 256 (small) pages that Alexander sometimes fails the "Show; Don't tell" rule.  His descriptions are brief, sometimes non-existent, and it takes away from the experience.  He had enough material in this book that if he'd expanded on parts more, this could have been two books or at least a much thicker book.  I think he did a much better job with The Prydain Chronicles, which had five books so he had more room for description and expansion.

There were plenty of redeeming qualities though.  Mickle and Theo's conversations are wonderful.  Mickle knows exactly what to say to him, even if he doesn't want to hear it.  And she can be wickedly funny.  I could have done without more of Theo's soul-searching dialogue, but there was considerably less of it in this book than in the last.  And Weasel grows into a great character too.  He's funny, surprising, resourceful, and intelligent.

Some of Alexander's experiences from WWII obviously influenced his writings.  His reflections on government and power and mob rule are seem throughout the series.  And he's not afraid to kill off a host of his characters (including some of my favorites) in battle or show the negative effects power has on human nature.  B+

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