REVIEW: Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt
When you owe money to the biggest criminal in town you are going to need to step up your thieving game a notch…
Service at the Red Rooster Inn isn’t what you’d call “good,” or even “adequate.” Darin would be the first to say so, and he owns the place. Evie isn’t much of a barmaid; Kat’s home-brewed ale seems to grow less palatable with each new batch; and Seraphina’s service at the bar leaves much to be desired. As for the bouncer, Big Tom, well, everyone learns right quick to stay on his good side.
They may be bad at running an inn, but they’re the best team of con artists in the Old Queendom. When a prospective client approaches Darin with a high-paying job, he knows he should refuse. But the job is boosting a shipment of priceless imperial dream wine, the most coveted and expensive drink in the world. And, thanks to a stretch of bad luck, he’s in deep to The Dame, who oversees criminal enterprises in this part of the Queendom.
If they fail, they’re as good as dead, but if they succeed… well, it’s enough money to get square with the Dame and make all of their dreams come true. Plus, it’s an option for Darin to stick it to the empress, who he has good reason to despise.
Then again, there’s a very good reason no one has ever stolen imperial dream wine…
A year and a half ago, I read “Domesticating Dragons” by Koboldt and enjoyed it very much. When I saw this cover, read the blurb, and then saw a few 4-5 star reviews, I thought I’d love it. Excited to be approved for an arc, I dove in expecting to be caught up in the promised impossible heist.
The story begins in media res with three of the main characters. Darin and Evie are circulating through a party of aristocrats, deftly robbing them blind. Perhaps robbing them too much as I kept thinking, surely someone would notice the amount of pickpocketing being done given how much is being taken. Then Darin is challenged by a pompous blowhard (who frankly sounds like a young Donald Trump). Does our cheeky hero save his wisecracks in order to slip out with the loot and his life? Of course not. But he doesn’t impress me either. Instead he proceeds with a paint-by-numbers attempt to outface the opposition which fails. Only with the help of the other two and a last second bluff which makes things worse in the long run does he sort of get out. After which he still doesn’t save himself but returns to turning on the smarm charm which fails him again. Color me still not at all impressed with him so far and he’s supposed to be the brains of this group.
The world building is lukewarm and bog standard Medieval Fantasyland. Chapters into it, I still have little to no understanding of this world and was growing less interested in it by the minute. Everyone is acting and responding precisely how I’ve seen done countless times before in film, TV, and other books. It was a struggle to stay engaged. I usually prefer showing rather than telling but I need some telling so I’m not flailing around lost. I might, at some point, go back and see if I can push through a bit more but for right now, I’m putting this one aside.