Allow me to introduce my new favorite band of adventurers, the Rat Queens! Hannah the Elven Mage (and the daughter of necromancers), Violet the Dwarfen Warrior (and defier of family tradition), Dee the Cleric (estranged from her family of flying squid worshipers) and Betty the Smidgen Thief (always ready with a magical mushroom, candy, and two very sharp blades). Together, they rain destruction on their enemies or, if enemies be lacking, the bars and streets of the city of Palisades.
It’s the latter of the Rat Queen’s boisterous activity that lands them in jail (repeatedly) and at odds with the town’s council and mayor. The Queens – and the other bands of roving warriors bored to death in Palisades – are given one last change: complete the assigned quest, and all is forgiven. Unfortunately, the quest is a trap and the Queens find themselves in the middle of a very dangerous conspiracy.
Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch introduces the Queens with spectacular action, violence and smart-assery. Whether in battle or recovering from it (with a raging party) the pace of the story never slows down. Bits of back story filter in, just enough to pique curiosity, although even without, the bonds between the Rat Queens are obviously very strong.
Rat Queens Vol 2: The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth by Wiebe, Upchurch and addition of illustrator Stjepan Sejic begins with the Queens post-victory party. They are summoned to mayor’s office for what they expect is another tongue-lashing, but instead they’re offered a paying gig. Meanwhile, Sawyer, the captain of the town guard (and Hannah’s on again, off again lover) is kidnapped, his lieutenant attacked and the rest of the guard slaughtered. Over the course of the story, we also get glimpses into the pasts of our Queens – what made them into the warriors they are and how they were brought together. Oh, and Dee’s husband stops by with some very, very bad news.
If you’re thinking that much of Rat Queens sounds like Dungeons & Dragons, you’d be right. Aside from our four warriors, there are trolls, orcs, demons and guilds galore. Admittedly, this had undue influence over my first read*, but Volume 2 was so, so great that I re-read Vol. 1 and then read Vol. 2 again. This isn’t a series that you can jump into at the second or third collection. You miss much of the subtext and background that makes the series so enjoyable. The art in Vol. 2 is especially wonderful. I mean, how can you argue with Sejic’s portraits?
One caution – Rat Queens is solidly for mature readers only. As I’ve mentioned, there is a great amount of gore, language and sexual situations (IMO, that’s one of the best aspects of the series, but to each their own.)
Safe questing, dear readers!
* This isn’t to say that I have anything against D&D. I played it once, after working 10 hours, and no one had warned me there would be math involved. Absolutely not the game’s or the dungeon master’s fault.