The Queen of All Crows (The Map of Unknown Things #1) by Rod Duncan

PrintThe Queen of All Crows is a difficult book for me to review.  I did struggle a little to get through it but in fairness to the book and the author I think that’s down to me and not the book – hence why I’m having difficulties putting my thoughts down.  On the face of it this story has so many elements that I was excited about.  A gaslit empire with airships, a female who isn’t afraid to forge herself a place in a world where women are restricted and not appreciated for their minds or actions, an adventure out at sea with spies and pirates – come on.

The main character is Elizabeth Barnabus, as the story begins Elizabeth, in male disguise, is employed as the Scientific Officer aboard a whaling ship called Pembroke.  As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that Elizabeth is being employed by The Patent Office as a spy.  Elizabeth has her own agenda and obviously the Patent Office has theirs.  Elizabeth is looking for her dearest friend who went missing after her airship was shot down whilst flying over the Atlantic.  This is a world where many nations have banded together to form a peaceful alliance.  The Patent Office oversee the whole affair, primarily it seems by policing the creation of inventions that could be used to aid war and bloodshed.  When more airships are shot down the Patent Office needs eyes in territories that they are forbidden entry to and Elizabeth/Barnabus needs a way of entering an environment which she is similarly forbidden entry to.

I don’t really want to say too much more about the plot but I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that the pirates of the story are females, women who have escaped their lives to create something new for themselves, a world unrestricted by petticoats and polite manners.

There are a lot of intriguing elements to this book.  I loved the time spent at sea – and to be clear, that’s a lot of time.  I think Elizabeth is a great character who I loved.  She actually has real determination, she’s brave and caring and she is relentless in her search to find her friend, in fact she takes tremendous risks to do just that.

So, why did I struggle a bit with this one?  Well, the plot felt a bit vague to be honest.  The thrust of it really is Elizabeth saving her friend and I think my issue with that was that I didn’t really know either of them well enough to really sink into the story.  I know that there have been three books from this world already and I also understand that this is the start of a new series but I wonder whether I would have felt myself more invested if I’d read the other series first.  The other thing was, as much as I love this idea of a whole boatload of women becoming pirates, shirking their restricted lives, banding together to break free – I felt like their world needed a bit more building up.  Don’t get me wrong, there was some detail but I felt that it was a little skimmed over.

Overall, although I had a few issues with this book I certainly wouldn’t discourage others from reading.  I feel that I was having a bit of a reading go-slow for a couple of weeks in December and that probably also contributed to my mood in some ways.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.




13 Responses to “The Queen of All Crows (The Map of Unknown Things #1) by Rod Duncan”

  1. sjhigbee

    Thank you for a thorough, very fair review. I have to say that this one sounds fabulous – but if it is a spinoff, maybe the author is feeling so very comfortable in the world, he hasn’t created that bonding moment so crucial at the start of every book to get the readers to care for the main characters. I surprises me how often this happens – but then perhaps most readers are more sensible than me and don’t make a habit of crashing midway into a series:)

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha – yes, I think I might have been better if I’d read the previous novels, just to help me feel more for the characters. It certainly wasn’t a bad book but a combination of slight irritations and bad mood and reading slump just left me feeling a bit less eager to pick it back up each day. It feels very unfair on the author really because I’m sure my mood had an impact.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Realistically though, that is part of the deal, isn’t it? We pick up a book in the mood we’re in. What always impresses me about your reviews, is that you take that into account and warn your readers if you weren’t in the spiffiest mood at the time. It’s a testament to your fair-mindedness as a reviewer and why I always pay attention to what you have to say.

      • @lynnsbooks

        Aww, thank you Sarah. I always feel bad when I don’t really love the book, reviews for those books are the hardest to write for me.
        Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Yes… I know what you mean!

  2. Tammy

    I’m a bit bummed to hear this didn’t quite work for you. I have this for review (and completely thought it was coming out later this year!). I really enjoyed the first book in the last series, but I didn’t enjoy the second book as much. However, I’m looking forward to seeing how this works for me.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I was just saying to Maddalena that I think some of this was probably to do with my reading mood. I did have niggles and I think that would have been the same whatever I was feeling like when I picked it up but I was just having a bit of a slump and it made me less keen to pick this up. Also, I think it might have been better if I’d read the previous series so you’ll no doubt jump straight in and already know the characters very well.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    There are many intriguing concepts here and for those alone I would try this book, even though you seem to have found a few blemishes with the story and characterization: I wonder if the author was too focused on those details and felt little need to expand on the world and the characterization… Still, I will keep an eye on this one, since your review did pique my interest quite a bit 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      To be honest, I put a lot of this down to my mood at the time and feeling a bit of a slump in reading. It’s pick up again now but I’m sure that the feelings influenced how I felt about the read. I had some niggles but there are some good ideas. I also couldn’t help thinking that maybe I would have already had a strong connection with the characters if I’d read the previous series. I hope you enjoy it.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I still have the audiobook of this to review, and now I’m not sure if the format will help or hinder me to be honest. One the one hand, this feels like the perfect kind of book for audio, but then the vagueness you describe also makes me think I might run into problems. I guess I’ll find out once I start it. Wish me luck!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I read reviews for the first series and people seemed to really enjoy the world building – of course this moves out onto the water (which I did like). I really enjoyed certain aspects, I liked that Elizabeth disguises herself so that she can take part in a male environment but then I had quite a few niggles with the pirate world and I just think my mood didn’t really help. I hope you enjoy it and perhaps audio will be a different experience.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Captain's Quarters

    Hmmm women pirates. This sounds interesting enough to stay on me list despite yer reservations but I am glad for the warning. Lovely review matey.
    x The Captain

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