Plot: Displaced, the first novel in Baker's Birthright Saga, boasts a fleet, often inspired story of matriarchal superheroes on a Hawaiian island. The story's heart is the conflict between royal teen twins Chancery, the kind-hearted protagonist, and Judica, her cruel sister and the heir to the throne. Baker's story pulses with exciting incident, and even though this is the first book in a series the climax is consequential and exciting, even as it entices readers with the promise of more. Occasionally, the bloody business of warrior queendom proves an awkward fit against the novel's teen romance elements. The high school scenes feel less urgent and engaging than the scenes of dynastic intrigue. The idea of "pure" DNA as the source of these "Evians’" powers also has an unfortunate whiff of eugenics, but the novel hints that this might get explored further in later volumes.
Prose/Style: Baker's writing is swift but potent. She invests each scene with the heart of her protagonist, so it's always clear what's most important in each moment. The large cast is clearly described and differentiated, and scenes of action and romance both prove exciting. Chancery's perspective is likably wry for a royal narrator. The dialogue varies from flirty teen banter to regal proclamations, but always is crisply crafted. In short, the prose is appropriate to the story.
Originality: Displaced’s milieu is familiar to the Wonder Woman mythos, and the introduction of Chancery's second potential love interest demonstrates a fidelity to genre. But Baker brings fresh energy and invention to even familiar elements like the inevitable royal succession crisis. Her Evians' powers and customs fascinate, and Displaced never misses an opportunity to jolt readers with a surprise.
Character Development: Chancery is a strong and appealing protagonist, split between two worlds and ultimately dragged into battle against her own twin. Both sisters are vividly drawn, as are their paramours, guards, relations, and friends. A letter from Chancery's mother, after that queen's death, is a moving highlight of the story, and Chancery's exciting choices power the narrative from start to epic climax.
Date Submitted: August 22, 2020