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Book Review

Book Cover

Three Kings (Hardback)


Editors: George R. R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Publisher: Harper Voyager
392 pages
RRP: £20
ISBN: 978 0 00 836148 8
Publication Date: 14 May 2020

The Wild Cards is a series of books and other media which tells an alternative world history. In this world, the planet was covered with alien spores. A part of the population remained unaffected. Some, known as Aces, were give stupendous powers, while others were not so lucky - their new gifts being more of a curse. These people were named Jokers...

Three Kings (392 pages) edited by George R. R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass is the twenty-something book in a series which has been able to remain fresh, whilst building up a rich cast of characters who inhabit an ever increasingly fleshed out world.

The basic structure for the books is that the writing is shared between a number of authors, in this case Mary Anne Mohanraj, Peter Newman, Peadar O Guilin, Melinda Snodgrass and Caroline Spector.

Previous novels have been structured by having each author write a complete portion, from the perspective of a particular character and the whole thing being drawn together in the last story. This time they have produced a different form of mosaic novel. The novel reads as a single narrative. It does not have any chapters, but is separated into days and within those days it is further separated by the main POV characters. This means you have no idea who wrote what and it’s a genuinely impressive feat that there is no way of telling. The style, pace and general tone remains consistent throughout.

In this alternative world Queen Elizabeth has died without, apparently, leaving an heir. On her passing Margaret becomes Queen and this is generally a good time for the Aces and Jokers, but Margaret’s time is also over and her son, Henry, will ascend to the throne. The problem is that Henry is an ill-tempered racist and not at all suitable.

On Margaret’s deathbed she calls for Alan Turing and reveals to him that Elizabeth did indeed have a child, but that as the child was obviously not normal it was disposed of. Believing the child may be alive she tasks Turing to find the child and stop Henry becoming king.

The story is then told through the main POV characters, Turing who feels torn between his oath to the crown, the ambition of his on/off lover, Prince Richard and his desire to find and restore the rightful king.

Turing isn’t the only one interested in finding him, given that Henry states his desire to return England back to an Anglo-Saxon realm, attacks against the Jokers increases as does the general level of racism towards them. The Green Man, leader of the underground resistance also sees the Jokers salvation in finding the rightful king alive, a Joker king would change everything.

The third main POV is Noel, an ex-agent who is just trying to hold on to custody of his child. Henry uses this as a lever to blackmail him into finding and killing Elizabeth’s child.

There are other characters who get their own POV moments, but the spine of the novel is the race to see who discovers if the child is alive and whether he is elevated to the throne or killed without knowing his real parentage.

As it stands, this makes a good adventure story and the writers could have left it there. Instead they have taken the time to flesh out characters and the book delves into their relationships. The book is as much about love, its temptations and the lies we hide from our partners as it is about finding the king. Alongside the examination of the fragility of love the book also tackles racism, though this is not new and has been a common theme through the series.

Overall, a good entry into the series, where they are trying new things, pushing the boundaries of what a mosaic novel should look like.


Charles Packer

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