The Pretender’s Crown by C.E. Murphy is the sequel to The Queen’s Bastard: book 2 of The Inheritors’ Cycle. All the important characters (of those left alive at the end of the first book) are here to carry on with the excitement. Belinda Primrose, Javier de Castille as king of ‘France’, Lorraine Walter as queen of ‘England’, and Drake as the queen’s lover and father to Belinda.
The magic-from-aliens angle is key to the story – succinctly described as an OMGWTFBBQ moment by another reader. Setting aside the clunkiness of aliens and genetic engineering in this alternate-history that’s healthily powered by ample political intrigue; the spectre of alien domination becomes Belinda’s secret nemesis.
This book is better than the first, IMO: the plot cranks things along at high speed the entire time. There aren’t discontinuities such as those that bothered me in the first book. That being said, this does not quite rate four stars, because Belinda’s characterization is not quite as much as I would like. Javier is developed well as a character I grant, and the gondola boy is fun, but no one truly springs to life.
The steamy romance/lust scenes are less important than in the first book, too. Belinda does not have a romantic interest this time around as she’s busy being political. In sizzle-level, this is similar to the Georgina Kincaid series rather than Jaqueline Carey’s Angeline world.