An act of mercy returns to haunt Theo. Should he have saved the life of Cabbarus, the man who tried to steal the throne once before to suit his own evil gains? Was it mercy—or foolishness?
Theo has little time to wonder before Westmark is plunged into war. This time, Cabbarus has an army behind him, and when the capital city of Marinstat falls to Cabbarus’ new directorate, Theo and his friends scramble to organize a resistance.
But some in the resistance have ideas of their own. Florian asks Theo to do what Theo has sworn never to do again.
Florian gripped his arm. “Give me Marianstat.”
Another leader of a resistance faction, Theo’s friend Justin, has other ideas.
Theo stared at him. “You’d set your people against his?”
Theo, however, has a few trusted friends, among them the ousted Beggar Queen; the quack doctor and professional bamboozler, Las Bombas, with his sidekick Musket; sarcastic journalist Keller and his water rats; and a host of disreputable crooks, who, while outside of the law under any regime, prefer the queen’s rule to Cabbarus’. Step by step, the resistance pries at the directorate’s fingers of power, paying in blood the price of freedom.
Then Theo is captured, and carefully laid plans begin to spin wildly out of control.
This book, in my opinion, shows a great deal of depth, not only in character, but in the friction amongst various factions even on the same side. As in a real war, sometimes it is difficult to tell who is friend and who is foe, as all jockey to have the prime position by the end of the war and thus sabotage each other and their own cause. Some of the choices are difficult as well, choices where there is not the luxury to choose between a clear good and a clear evil, but between two evils.
This might give the impression of muddying moral ground, and perhaps some will find it so, but I did not. Theo especially struggles against the horrors of war to maintain an honorable character, and Mickle infuses the story with hope. She refuses to give up on her people and her fiancé, and her common sense buoys up Theo in many dark times.
The ending is not perfect, either. It is satisfying enough, but some conflicts are not fully resolved and some old wounds are not healed. Why should they be? As with any story that reflects life as it is, The Beggar Queen presents questions and leaves the reader to answer them.
The Westmark Trilogy by Lloyd Alexander