There’s a certain class of movies I like to refer to as “popcorn movies,” by which I mean they are just fun. You sit there shoveling popcorn into your mouth, wide-eyed and glued to the screen, totally sucked into the action and before you know it the credits are rolling and you’re scraping the bottom of the bucket wondering where the time and the popcorn all went. The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson is very much the literary equivalent of a popcorn movie, and I mean that in the absolute best possible way.
It’s immensely fun, entirely engrossing, and the absolute definition of a real page-turner. Once I cracked the cover on The Crimson Queen and started in on it, I found myself having a hard time putting it down and the pages and chapters flew by. It’s not just that it’s that good (it is, though), it’s that the pacing is phenomenal and the world itself is so lush and full of life, so clearly defined and believable.
Hutson does something with The Crimson Queen that I greatly appreciate, and it’s something that I feel not enough fantasy authors are willing to do: he trusts the reader. He doesn’t waste time on endless exposition or walls of description. Instead, Hutson presents the world and its history and inhabitants for us, the reader, to interpret through the course of the action and the story itself. And it pays off, big time.
The Crimson Queen takes place in a living world, brimming with fascinating history and characters that you want to spend time with. Right out the gate things are actually happening, there’s no waiting around for the story to gain momentum, it happens right in the first few pages and a lot of that has to do with not only Hutson’s lovely prose but how clear and distinctly written his characters are. Each one is clearly defined and developed, and even the villains and antagonists are people you want to spend time reading about.
As a matter of fact if I had any chief complaint about The Crimson Queen it’s that I wanted more out of it. I don’t usually complain about a book not being long enough, and when I do it’s usually because the writer needed to take more time developing things. Here, the inverse is true. Hutson has developed the world in which The Crimson Queen takes place in so well I just desperately want to spend more time there going on adventures with the characters who populate it. Which, in regards to the characters and the story itself, as I mentioned previously is utterly engrossing.
While not being totally original and definitely playing with some well-known fantasy tropes, Hutson wields those tropes effectively. Even the Chosen One Farm Boy (he’s a fisherman’s son, actually) here is interesting and has a fun spin. There’s a conspiracy that spans millennia, monsters and gods and demons, hair-raising sword fights and magical battles. The Crimson Queen has everything you could possibly want or need out of an epic fantasy. Then, before you know it, it’s over and there are no more pages left. Thankfully, it’s only the first part of a trilogy so there’s more adventure and excitement ahead and I cannot wait to dig into it. I’m very happy to give The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson an enthusiastic four stars, and have already added the next two books to my TBR pile.