The Vanished Queen


Lisbeth Campbell


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

February 13, 2021

he Vanished Queen is the debut fantasy novel of Lisbeth Campbell. It depicts the cruel kingdom of Vetia that is ruled by a despotic king, King Karolje. Vetia is an oppressive place, the king rules through terror. Spies and betrayal are everywhere. There are public executions. The lords are corrupt and the citizens are brutally ground down. The university has been closed, the library boarded up. The minority population of Tazekh is blamed for any mishap, and they frequently suffer execution and other penalties.

King Karolje has two sons - Tevin and Esvar. The brothers are united in their opposition to their father's rule, but must tread carefully, lest any misstep cause him to imprison or behead them. They cannot trust anyone around them, any servant or guard is probably reporting to Doru, the sinister spy-master. Even between themselves, they keep their own secrets, just in case one of them is seized by the king and subjected to the fearsome Truth Finders. The Truth Finders are the only bit of magic in this medieval world, by placing their hand on a victims forehead (sort of like a Vulcan mind-meld), the Truth Finder can ascertain whether a prisoner is lying or telling the truth; unfortunately, the process can scramble the minds of those who are touched.

In the city, some of the citizens have banded together to form a resistance to the king. One member of the resistance is the heroine of the novel, a young college student named Anza. Her father, Captain Havidian, served in the King's guard, but he was executed when a raid that he commanded failed to bring back alive the intended prisoner. King Karolje had Captain Havidian beheaded, and now Anza wants revenge. Because her father was a soldier, he trained Anza in defense, she is proficient with a bow. When soldiers raid their resistance meeting, Anza slays three of them with expert arrow shots, and then escapes over the rooftops, the only member of her resistance cell to escape.

The "vanished" queen in the book's title is King Karolje's missing wife, Mirantha. Mirantha disappeared years ago, the official story is that she was assassinated by the Tazekh, but everyone suspects that she really perished at the command of King Karolje. Scattered throughout the novel are chapters describing Queen Mirantha's life before her disappearance. We read of her great love for her two boys, Tevin and Esvar. We witness her terror and helplessness at the cruelties of King Karolje. Will she be able to raise her sons to become men of justice and honor, or will Karolje corrupt them into copies of his awful behavior? Because we know Mirantha is doomed to disappear, her plight takes on special poignancy.

I found The Vanished Queen to be an interesting read. Campbell does a good job depicting the ominous sense of always being watched, the fear of betrayal at any moment, the inability to let down your guard and trust anyone. The resistance characters wrestle with morality - should they ambush lord and the King's soldiers, to weaken him? The King manipulates his sons, can they survive with their honor intact? This mostly a story of intrigue and plotting, of swift meetings in safe houses, with occasional bursts of violence and terror. I thought it was a well told story.