The White Queen by PJ Fox

Following my recent review of The Demon of Darkling Reach, I’d been looking forward to when I’d get chance to read the second book in The Black Prince trilogy, The White Queen. I wasn’t remotely disappointed, although perhaps a little surprised at what I found when I began the first chapter.

The narrative doesn’t start where I would have expected it to, i.e with Isla and Tristan as their relationship develops. Indeed, it was several chapters later where we would rejoin the couple. Instead, the reader learns how the Tristan Mountbatten became The Demon of Darkling Reach in the first place. We are introduced to the original Tristan Mountbatten, Duke and necromancer, and the circumstances surrounding his reasons for summoning a demon in the first place. We are also given the demon’s point of view before, during and after he inhabits Tristan’s body, becoming the Tristan we know and love from book one. This tactic, ironically, humanises the demon and the reader cannot help but sympathise with the demon and his plight.

Fox illuminates how the demon made a split-second decision to inhabit the original Tristan’s body at that moment and had to figure things out for himself with no real guidance from anyone else. Juxtaposed with Isla’s own struggle to comprehend the enormity of the decision she has made to marry a demon and the changes she will be required to make, the reader feels a greater affinity with Tristan as he guides Isla as best he can and shows her how he does love her in the only way he can.

As with book one, the narrative is beautifully written, intricate in the descriptions of locations, emotions and educating the reader about historical traditions and processes. As with The Demon of Darkling Reach, the issues transcend not only the space in time from when the demon inhabits Tristan to the time he meets Isla, but also to the present day. Religion, war and prejudice play a massive part in current affairs, as does love and jealousy, and Fox has an amazing skill to make these historically based narratives resonate with the same issues from today’s society.

This book reads a little slower than book one but it is no less enjoyable for it. While book one puts the situation in front of the reader, this book explores those dynamics in greater detail. If The Demon of Darkling Reach raises many questions, The White Queen provides plenty of answers, them raises a few more! However, like The Demon of Darkling Reach, The White Queen reads like a modern gothic novel, much smarter than the gothic novels that pre-date it.

I was eager to get to the part where Tristan and Isla meet again at Caer Addanc, willing Isla’s journey to pick up speed whilst simultaneously taking in all the information provided by Fox that builds up the characters further. In fact, while frustrating a little at times, Fox cleverly builds up the tension by showing Tristan’s own struggles then expanding Isla’s journey to Darkling Reach, allowing Isla to expose her fears to the reader and  exacerbating the anticipation of their first meeting on Tristan’s territory.

I love Tristan. I’m not sure that I would be willing to make the sacrifices that Isla makes but there is something very attractive and appealing about the enigmatic demon. Whether it is his power, his self-control or the way he treats Isla with such respect and gentility, I don’t know, but I want them to have a happy ending together, in whatever way they can. Throughout the narrative of these first two books, Fox leaves the reader in no doubt that there are strong feelings between Isla and Tristan and that they connect in a way no other couple, certainly in these books, seem to be able to do.

I have no idea how Fox intends to end Tristan and Isla’s story and these novels often take a route that is completely unexpected, so I have no doubt that no-one could predict at this stage how Fox will close off these characters. However, this trilogy is one of the most interesting series I’ve read in a long while and I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment. Watch this space!

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