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Queen of Monsters by Jay Barnson (Frayed Knights)

If you’re here, chances are you’ve heard of Jay Barnson, author of Frayed Knights.

While FK2 was in the works for a while, Jay has since taken on an entirely new endeavor and become a fantasy author. While most would-be authors take steps forward and back for years, even decades and many ultimately fail to finish their first book, Jay has in just a few short years been published five (soon to be six) times!

The Blood Creek series are the first four. (I’m about to finish the second one… I read more slowly than he writes!). Witches, sorcerers, a mirror world and snallygasters in a fun Apalachian mythos setting.

Now his second series is taking off with Queen of Monsters: The Vanished, which I finished reading a couple weeks ago. I was about to write a review on Amazon and it seems I fail to qualify due to lack of recent purchases. So I thought I’d share my thoughts here, and encourage RPG fans to support an author as he rises from our ranks. Maybe that’ll even help him find time to resume work on Frayed Knights 2!

Which reminds me, I failed to complete the first FK after some 16 hours. I need to amend that once Sovereign is done.

Something needs to be said before I proceed. Jay and I are friends. I visited him on my way to the West Coast a few years back. He visited me in Paris on his way to Le Havre the year before, and then again in Southwestern France with his lovely wife Julie. Good times.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, Jay’s writing shines because of well developped characters and original settings. Queen of Monsters takes place in a parallel world that the main protagonist Aiden Holt (not related to any New York police captain as far as I know) and Kaela are teleported into in mysterious ways that the first book does not yet fully reveal. Others had disappeared this way from our world before, and Aiden had taken a particular interest in those unexplained disappearances. He had learned everything there is to know about many of them. Now that he too has been taken, he finds himself hearing the other side of the story for some of the most famous ones, as he himself takes part in the adventure. Ultimately, he will be confronted with some of them, not knowing at first if they are friend or foe.

There is a particular geopolitical situation in this new world, and Aiden finds himself forced to serve in a military outfit faced with hostile rival nations and… Monsters. Lots of them.

But Aiden and the other “Sparks” aren’t your typical grunts. The trip to this medieval world frought with conflict has augmented them, each in different ways. The first installment of Queen of Monsters take you through the coming of age of the young protagonist, Aiden, Kaela and a few others. Aiden’s, however, is trickier than most and a delight to see unfold.

Survival in the Spark ranks is the exception, and shifting balance of power between factions isn’t helping. Aiden’s journey in this context is just beginning and I will be in line for the coming installments to find out what Jay has in store for him and his friends.

Queen of Monsters: The Vanished Book 1 is available on Kindle and paperback.