My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I will admit, I was not impressed by the first couple of chapters of the Queen's Blade (Book One). They were uneventful and did more telling than showing (which happened more than I liked throughout the series). Maybe there was even too much back story, I don't know. But by the time Blade's character was introduced, I didn't care. I was in it 'till the end by that point.
Blade enthralled me with his cold-blooded nature from the jump. The assassin's lack of respect for those of a higher station entertained me and the pitiless way he dished out death impressed me. Yes, impressed. The reader (or I) gets an understanding from the first introduction that Blade is totally miserable and only a perfectly miserable soul could slip a dagger into someone's heart in the middle of the night...without waking the person that is lying beside them. Impressive stuff, that is.
Southwell drives the entire series using Blade's sadistic wit and humor, plus his total lack of give-a-damn. But he is not the only character that I enjoyed reading about. The author also did a good job creating complimentary characters who put forth an unrelenting effort to chip away the ice that surrounds Blade's heart, much to his annoyance and that of his peers. Though lacking true depth (which was balanced out by the complexity of Blade), I came to like the other main characters and wanted to see them triumph as much as I wanted Blade to.
The only fall back to this series was the predictability. At times, I felt like Blade was experiencing things he already had in previous books or chapters, and in a sense, he was. But when it comes down to it, assassins only have one path: survive or die. Southwell doesn't feed you some unrealistic narrative about an assassin who lives a glorious life free from drama and people wanting his head on a block. She gives you the real version, one where the main character Blade is hunted on a daily basis and literally has to sleep with one eye open and a dagger in his hand.
However, the predictability issues in this series are overshadowed by the witty dialogue, fun characters, and a few great moments of hilarity. I would recommend this book to lovers of fantastical worlds, scheming kings and queens, and characters that refuse to let themselves be defeated by fate.