Queen of Swords is the third book in R. S. Belcher’s Golgotha series, and none of it takes place in Golgotha. For fans of that bizarre little frontier town in Nevada, that’s sort of a letdown. But it also means new readers of the series can jump right in without getting lost. And they should. It’s quite the adventure.
Maude Stapleton made her first appearance in Belcher’s debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, where we learned that she was far more than a housewife and mother. Her preternatural physical skills included extensive martial arts training, a dash of mysticism, and the ability to control her body’s internal functions. She used these skills to help stop an apocalyptic event from erupting underneath Golgotha, an evil from the birth of the universe, locked up by God himself and guarded by an angel.
In Queen of Swords, we go in-depth with Maude Stapleton, discovering not only how she got her powers, but how her great-great-great-great grandmother and mentor, Anne Bonny, turned from ne’er-do-well pirate queen to a distributor of swift and violent justice.
The novel takes place in two time periods. Half of it follows Anne Bonny on a trip to an ancient hidden city in the Sahara in the early 18th century. The rest of the story is post-Civil War and sees Maude travel from Charleston, South Carolina, to that selfsame city in Africa.
For the most part, Queen of Swords is a swashbuckler with a light peppering of eldritch horror. There is, however, a fair amount of legal drama in the first half of the novel. I was surprised, since it’s not a staple of Belcher’s work, but he clearly did his homework. Most of it revolves around the legal rights of widows and will please feminist readers and John Grisham fans alike.
There’s only a little romance in the novel, but there are times when it gets sugary sweet. Mostly this revolves around family reconciliation, which is one of the novel’s main themes. For me, though, it was laid on a little thick. I found myself racing through I love you and sorry for everything just to get back to the ass kicking.
Belcher’s prose has only gotten better since his debut. This is his fifth novel and reading them in order has revealed his growth as an author and weaver of plot. I highly anticipate what comes next for the citizens of Golgotha and the pirate progeny Maude Stapleton.
Dusty Wallace lives in the Appalachians of Virginia with his wife and two sons. He enjoys reading, writing, and the occasional fine cigar. Find him on Twitter: @CosmicDustMite