Queen of Iron Years by Lyn McConchie and Sharman Horwood. A review by John Cook

Queen of Iron Years

I enjoyed this book with some qualifications. It consists of two intertwined story lines. In one it is 2035 and the world is a rather shaken and scary place though there have been predictable technological advances. The focus is on a disease called Tensens which has a specific but fatal side effect. When it infects a transsexual, their having sex with a non-Trans person invariably results in death for that partner. There is an hysterical over-reaction to the situation not unlike the AIDS years and Russia today with regular bashings, killings and a move toward physical isolation of all Trans persons. That alone has the makings of a good storyline but it is somewhat sketchily and roughly developed with its main focus on the hero(ine) trans Cean who, in the second storyline, is going to escape via time travel to some point in the Boadicea era (c AD60). The reason is that he has a peculiar genealogical interest in that time and would like to be instrumental in bringing about a change in its history which was fatal for Boadicea. We are left to conclude that the feminine leadership role of the Queen was attractive to Cean who has breast development but is still essentially male in appearance. I confess to having problems with the name Cean but that may simply be pickiness on my part.

Clearly the second line is the most interesting and well-developed. However, I had two very specific problems with it. While a lot of the description was colourful and absorbing, there was a tendency for ‘dressing the set’ to be a bit obvious. It is possible to visit villages that are reproductions of this time in British history and, at times, if felt as though the narrative was being rather obviously salted with such observations. My second concern lies with the bag of goodies that Cean brings with him – mini-computer (no Google, though) and a supply of medicaments and the means to reproduce antibiotics. There are times when it all fits rather too neatly.

Things do and don’t work out quite as Cean had intended and there is a visit to one of darker sides of Druidic religious practice. There is character variation and adequate psychological motivation. There is good incorporation of what is known of the lifestyle of Britons and Romans at that time. Having read some Tacitus, I can support that position. I found myself enjoying this narrative and its development but must carp at the intrusiveness of its ‘neatness’ and the almost overwhelming decency of Cean.

For a piece of mixed science fiction and historical fantasy, I enjoyed the experience and found its flaws to be tolerable.

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