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The Map of Unknown Things #1

The Queen of All Crows

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From Book 1: Only one woman can stop the world from descending into endless war, in the thrilling new series in the world of the Gas-Lit Empire

The year is 2012. The nations of the world are bound together in an alliance of collective security, overseen by the International Patent Office, and its ruthless stranglehold on technology.

When airships start disappearing in the middle of the Atlantic, the Patent Office is desperate to discover what has happened. Forbidden to operate beyond the territorial waters of member nations, they send spies to investigate in secret.

One of those spies is Elizabeth Barnabus. She must overcome her dislike of the controlling Patent Office, disguise herself as a man, and take to the sea in search of the floating nation of pirates who threaten the world order.

File Under: Fantasy [ A Lost Airship | On the Sargasso| Stowaway Bay | The Crow Queen ]

348 pages, ebook

First published January 2, 2018

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About the author

Rod Duncan

12 books216 followers
Rod Duncan worked in scientific research and computing before settling in Leicester to be a writer. His first novel, Backlash, was short-listed for the John Creasey Memorial Award (now the CWA Debut Dagger).

After four crime novels he switched to fantasy. The Bullet Catcher's Daughter was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. He is currently writing a series of alternate history books, called ‘The Map of Unknown Things'.

Rod is also a screenwriter, and was once eaten alive in the feature film Zombie Undead.

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5 stars
105 (21%)
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140 (29%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 76 reviews
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,978 reviews1,989 followers
December 30, 2018
It is not necessary to read the first trilogy featuring Elizabeth Barnabus to appreciate this novel. It would add incalculably to your pleasure in the read, but it isn't necessary.

The plot picks up where The Custodian of Marvels leaves off. Julia has vanished after embarking for America, there to join her hard-won happiness with husband Richard in his law firm's Patent-law practice there. Julia will make herself a new life by studying Patent law at Columbia University. All of that struggle and fight is now gone for naught with her airship's disappearance. Her bestie and earliest supporter Elizabeth is on the hunt for her at great personal cost. It seems, as of now, that Elizabeth's main supporter and illicit lover, John Farthing, has lost her via her betrayal of his trust as well as her disappearance.

For someone who picked this book up because of its terrific cover art, this should be enough: the friendship between the women is explicitly made the stakes of the story within two chapters. Possibly the most intriguing idea in the series is the existence of the International Patent Office. Those who have read The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire may read the spoilers that follow.

Because the action of this book, airship crashes and pirate republics and long sea voyages, all takes place in 2012.
Profile Image for Realms & Robots.
196 reviews4 followers
February 2, 2019
The Queen of All Crows takes us to a modern day free of modern technology, following the story of a woman who will stop at nothing to discover the truth behind a massive government coverup. It’s a brilliant fantasy novel, complete with a compelling alternate history, strange technology teetering between antiquated and modern, and a main character you’ll be eager to keep up with. It’s a book to be loved and devoured quickly.

NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
Profile Image for Online Eccentric Librarian.
2,976 reviews5 followers
November 28, 2017
More reviews at the Online Eccentric Librarian http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

Some authors really find a groove in their series where each new book is more enjoyable than the last. But Rod Duncan has done even better with The Queen Of All Crows: he's taken the Gas Lit Empire series into a completely new direction that is both wonderful and wondrous. Gone are the canals and dirty London streets, now replaced with high seas adventures with female pirates and fantastical new weapons. As well, The Gas Lit Empire's philosophy of technology stifling is proving to be unmanageable in that it cannot be enforced outside of their sphere of influence. It's a big world out there and technology will always eventually end up in martial use.

Story: When Elizabeth's best friend Julia is presumed lost at sea when her airship is shot down by pirates, Elizabeth will use all her connections to get out to the ocean in the hope that Julia is still alive and can be rescued. Even if it means betraying her lover and forcing him to break his Patent Office vows in order to get her information, Elizabeth will do anything to save Julia. Including posing as a science officer on a whaler to track down her beloved best friend to the heart of the ocean and a band of inventive female pirates.

It's clear Duncan does his homework before writing and there are interesting concepts explored in this modern day AU universe. Most importantly, that the Patent Office isn't necessarily as evil as Elizabeth believed. But also that there are worse things out there and technology is leading the advancement toward scarier forms of war. Shades of the Uboat fears of WWII to ocean garbage patches are among the topics explored. As well, there was even a bit of "Waterworld" that was both imaginative and scary at the same time.

But with all the concepts, this is still very much a character driven story. Main character Elizabeth is one of those rare heroines that isn't suffering under "TSTL" syndrome (Too Stupid To Live). Rather, just the opposite, she's the other kind TSTL - Too Smart To Live. Brave, inventive, intelligent - she's also living in a world where none of those qualities are appreciated in a woman. It leaves the story with a very strong feeling of hopelessness that can be dreary at times but still very much worth the read. Duncan definitely puts Elizabeth through the wringer and it makes all the much better a story for it. For me, I especially enjoy the psychological dances and character readings that Elizabeth does throughout the series.

The Queen of All Crows begins a completely new storyline. Although the book finishes its arc, it's clear there is a lot more to come. I greatly look forward to where Duncan will take the story, and the characters, next. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
1 review
December 11, 2017
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

Brilliant world-building, a fascinating protagonist, and a gripping story line!

The Queen of All Crows begins a little while after the events of the first trilogy in Duncan's alternative history that branched off from our own some 200 years ago (while this book can be read on its own, I would thoroughly recommend reading the most excellent trilogy that preceded it - The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter, Unseemly Science, and The Custodian of Marvels - first). For the first time we get more of a glimpse of the world beyond the borders of the Gas-Lit Empire and it appears that the control exercised by the International Patent Office is not quite as absolute as they would like to make it seem.

Duncan's world-building is wonderful and speaks volumes of the research and preparation that must have gone into these stories. It truly feels like a living and breathing world and the little hints here and there regarding parts of it not yet visited by the main protagonist make one wonder how exactly these places have ended up due to the events that made their history diverge from ours.

Elizabeth - who already in the previous books was extraordinarily competent and witty - finds herself thrust into a situation of much larger magnitude than what she has faced previously and has to grow and rise to the occasion in a very short time. Together with her, we learn that the world is a lot more complicated and with many more shades of gray than it may have previously seemed.

The Queen of All Crows is a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish and I for one cannot wait for the next installment in the series.
594 reviews24 followers
January 11, 2018
3.5 of 5 stars
The Queen of All Crows is a difficult book for me to review. I did struggle a little to get through it but in fairness to the book and the author I think that’s down to me and not the book – hence why I’m having difficulties putting my thoughts down. On the face of it this story has so many elements that I was excited about. A gaslit empire with airships, a female who isn’t afraid to forge herself a place in a world where women are restricted and not appreciated for their minds or actions, an adventure out at sea with spies and pirates – come on.

The main character is Elizabeth Barnabus, as the story begins Elizabeth, in male disguise, is employed as the Scientific Officer aboard a whaling ship called Pembroke. As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that Elizabeth is being employed by The Patent Office as a spy. Elizabeth has her own agenda and obviously the Patent Office has theirs. Elizabeth is looking for her dearest friend who went missing after her airship was shot down whilst flying over the Atlantic. This is a world where many nations have banded together to form a peaceful alliance. The Patent Office oversee the whole affair, primarily it seems by policing the creation of inventions that could be used to aid war and bloodshed. When more airships are shot down the Patent Office needs eyes in territories that they are forbidden entry to and Elizabeth/Barnabus needs a way of entering an environment which she is similarly forbidden entry to.

I don’t really want to say too much more about the plot but I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that the pirates of the story are females, women who have escaped their lives to create something new for themselves, a world unrestricted by petticoats and polite manners.

There are a lot of intriguing elements to this book. I loved the time spent at sea – and to be clear, that’s a lot of time. I think Elizabeth is a great character who I loved. She actually has real determination, she’s brave and caring and she is relentless in her search to find her friend, in fact she takes tremendous risks to do just that.

So, why did I struggle a bit with this one? Well, the plot felt a bit vague to be honest. The thrust of it really is Elizabeth saving her friend and I think my issue with that was that I didn’t really know either of them well enough to really sink into the story. I know that there have been three books from this world already and I also understand that this is the start of a new series but I wonder whether I would have felt myself more invested if I’d read the other series first. The other thing was, as much as I love this idea of a whole boatload of women becoming pirates, shirking their restricted lives, banding together to break free – I felt like their world needed a bit more building up. Don’t get me wrong, there was some detail but I felt that it was a little skimmed over.

Overall, although I had a few issues with this book I certainly wouldn’t discourage others from reading. I feel that I was having a bit of a reading go-slow for a couple of weeks in December and that probably also contributed to my mood in some ways.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Profile Image for Sara Codair.
Author 32 books54 followers
December 1, 2017
Queen of All Crows

When my request Queen of All Crows was approved on NetGalley, I was thrilled to hear that the wait to see what happened with Elizabeth Barnabus and John Farthing would be over. However, my experience reading the newest story in the world of the Gas-Lit Empire was a little different than it was last year. It is impossible to review without touching on how gender is portrayed in it.

Now, I’m more open about my gender identity, and am more engaged in conversations about gender and sexuality. Even though Elizabeth is referred to as “she/he” I’ve always thought “they/them” would be better suited as far as pronouns go. Barnabus was one of the first characters whose gender identity seemed to come close to mine -- not really man or woman, but something fluid and in between.

Yes, pretending to be a young man was labeled as a disguise, but to me, it always seemed like it was more part of Barbabus’ identity than a disguise, and I think part of why my review is four-stars, not five, was because of the phrase “disguise herself as a man” being present in the back cover copy and the manly appearance being referred to as a disguise in general. Narratives where a character presents a different gender just for an external purpose sometimes make non-binary and fluid identities less valid. However, the saving grace in this series is that Elizabeth's "disguise" is so much more than a disguise. And in Queen of All Crows, it becomes even clearer that not even Elizabeth truely understands their own identity.

I read slower than normal, rereading every sentence that hinted at Barnabus’ true gender identity. Some lines made me angry by placing Barnabus’ in a binary, but then there were twice as many that proved my theory that whether the author intended it or not, Barnabus was genderfluid.

The role gender played in this book went far beyond one character's identity. I could write a twenty page paper analyzing gender in this book. Much of the plot was driven by power and perceptions of power: power over technology and weapons, but more importantly, the balance of power between men, women and those who are both or neither.

As anyone who has read the other books knows, the Gas-Lit empire, is not a place women have much power or agency. However, in Queen of All Crows Barnabus travels to an island made up of all women, which unfortunately, fell into the trope of a complete reversal -- women enslaving men, and claiming they are better than them when they are really no different. I was a bit annoyed at this, but even here, the characters did not lack depth, and this little bubble of reversal did seem necessary to the larger plot at work throughout the serie. Since the characters were varied and not all raging idiots, and the description and integration into the world was so well done, I was able to forgive this.

The book did not have too many other flaws. The opening was slow, but once the plot picked up it was difficult to put the book down. The descriptions were detailed and gorgeous. The emotions and tensions high. The characters were tested and changed. The role of power and technology really got me thinking, and at times, I had to stop mentally debate ideas before diving back in. It has all the makings of a classic read that will endure for centuries.

Yes, there are some flaws, but every book has flaws, and this ones just make it more revealing in so many ways. I highly recommend it, but also reccomend you read Custodian of Marvels trilogy first.
1,003 reviews
February 4, 2020
So pleased that Elizabeth is still scrambling her way through life in this alternate history, this time on the high seas. Lots happening- adventure, action, twists, new characters, and thought provoking situations. This world is so well built and and clearly described that I will recognize it immediately if I should stumble into it somehow someday.
3 reviews1 follower
July 27, 2018
This is a great follow-up to the Gas-Lit trilogy Rod. Thoroughly enjoyable!
Profile Image for Daniel.
2,446 reviews38 followers
July 7, 2019
This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 5.0 of 5

Rod Duncan's earlier book, The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter, was one of the most powerful books I'd read in a long time. The follow-up books were just as strong and just like that Rod Duncan became one of my most eagerly-anticipated authors.

The Queen of All Crows continues with the same core set of characters as the Gas-Lit Empire series but moves away from the gritty steampunk London and takes adventure to the high seas. But we don't deviate far from the world where the Patent Office holds the most power. We're still in a world of fantastic machines and inventions but now we find our heroine, Elizabeth, stranded on an island of female pirates who have enslaved the men and put Elizabeth through a grueling challenge to determine whether she can live with the other women on the island or be put to death. The Queen of All Crows and her two daughters will determine Elizabeth's fate. But an attack on their secret land puts Elizabeth at the forefront in a battle she will lose no matter the outcome.

Duncan is an absolute master storyteller. In addition to a well-devised story with a plot that unfolds around us as we immerse ourselves in the story, we get a rich, detailed world that is just different enough from the world we think we know that it has an air of mystery around it.

As real and fantastic as this world and this setting is that Duncan has created, at the heart of the story are marvelous characters.

If you've read any of my reviews prior to this you probably know that I'm often focused on the characters and whether or not we buy in to their plight. All of Duncan's characters are unique, strong in their own way, and fully realized. Even the most minor characters feel like actual people and not just fodder for an author to use for slaughter or filler. This is a real relief as we don't often see this.

And because we have characters who are so real we find it easy to get invested in what they are doing. Elizabeth is such a marvelously complex character. I'm thrilled that her story didn't end with the Gas-Lit Empire series. Despite the steampunk sensibility of this story, Elizabeth is a most modern heroine and her adventure here is completely absorbing and well worth reading.

Put Rod Duncan on your Must-Read list.

Looking for a good book? The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan continues the adventures of Elizabeth Barnabus - and that's a very good thing if you like very well-written, character-driven science fiction/fantasy.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
211 reviews
November 20, 2017
It's 2012 and Elizabeth Barnabus is now a spy for the Patent Office, this alternate universe story
is a new edition to the world of the Gas-Lit Empire that Rod Duncan established in three previous
books. Fast paced, action packed, female pirates, airships being shot from the sky, what could be
better? This might be the best book in this series and I look forward to the next installment by
the author.
Profile Image for The Speculative Shelf.
244 reviews94 followers
January 10, 2018
3.5 out of 5 stars

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Fresh off her battle with the International Patent Court, Elizabeth Barnabus finds herself working on behalf of that very organization that brought her so much trouble in the past. She sets sail to investigate the disappearance of an airship that went down in the Atlantic.

The concept of the worldwide alliance that maintains world peace at the cost of technological advancement continues to be a fascinating one. This novel explores the parts of the world untouched by this alliance and the consequences of unrestrained progress.

Having raced through and enjoyed Rod Duncan’s previous trilogy, I was excited to see what new direction he takes with Elizabeth in this new series set in the same world. Sure enough, Duncan has crafted a solid adventure story that featured some superb scenes and passages. I remain impressed by Duncan’s skills as a writer. His prose is clean, readable, and rich. There’s a great theatricality infused into his stories that make the mundane seem grand.

My main issues with the story had to do with the third act, where some lulls in pacing emerge and some steam is lost from the first parts of the book. Overall, though, this is another enjoyable adventure featuring a great protagonist and set of side characters. I look forward to seeing what comes next.

See this review and others at The Speculative Shelf.
Profile Image for Katherine Hetzel.
Author 22 books11 followers
August 27, 2018
I love the world of the Gas-Lit Empire. And the first in this new trilogy, following Elizabeth in her new role as a spy for the Patent Office, did not disappoint.

This time, we take to the seas, and although the story begins with Elizabeth disguised as a man - which served her so well in the Fall of the Gas Lit Empire - she spends much of this adventure forced to remain her true self in an all-female world, while standing against the male dominated world with which she's so familiar when disguised.

My only 'bad thing' about this book? That it ended where it did. I did NOT want it to end at that particular point. It felt almost too open-ended for me (I do like each book to feel complete, even if there is more story to be told across the series) and I was unsure as to exactly what had been tied off in this novel, if you see what I mean? Having said that, it's not put me off wanting to know what happens next, so I look forward to reading books 2 & 3!
Profile Image for Tricia.
274 reviews
February 16, 2020
Audio. Elizabeth Barnabas sets off on a completely different adventure, if that is the right word. Acting as a covert agent for the all powerful Patent Office, her former nemesis, she undertakes an investigation that requires all her skills - and some she needs to acquire along the way.

Not quite as pacy as the previous series, Elizabeth needs to rely more on her mental acuity rather than sleight of hand which is a nicely handled development. She grows much as a character, along with a couple of other protagonists from previous adventures - they will remain nameless for reasons of spoilers.

Once more the world building is superb, again for reasons of spoilers I will not go into detail, the level of attention to detail is one I have come to expect from Mr Duncan, and I was not disappointed. There are some wonderful new characters I hope we will hear more of in the rest of the series.

I am looking forward to the rest of the series, listening time well spent.
Profile Image for J.D. DeHart.
Author 11 books44 followers
November 9, 2017
This book reads as a kind of alternative history, with many elements mixing into the fictional account. There is a protagonist who drives the narrative and enough detail to make the story believable...even more so than I find common in fantasy and science fiction.

The first of a series, I will be curious to see where the rest of this storyline goes. I am glad, as a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, I gave this book a chance and I am sure other readers would feel the same. Rod Duncan shows a great deal of talent as he constructs this world.
Profile Image for Susan.
37 reviews
March 24, 2019
As in the other books, Elizabeth Barnabus is a strong protagonist who, once again, is battling odds stacked against her. In this adventure, we find her more transparent as she has begun to open her heart to love. This realization that she is not alone in the world has a direct impact on her decisions and puts her in the position of making some painful choices. After a life of fending for herself, these new feelings are at times confusing, a little scary, and conflicting. Yet she remains true to herself.

Upon meeting a group of people who have been as misused and betrayed as she has been herself, her loyalties are tested in the extreme. Dare I say she is caught between the "devil and the deep blue sea?" Her solution is typically brave and a testament to her intelligence and her ability to see through the subterfuge of others. All in all, a very satisfying read.

While you could read this as a standalone book, the story is much richer when you understand the background of both the Gas-Lit Empire and Elizabeth's life. I would recommend reading the previous trilogy first.
Profile Image for Bmeyer.
369 reviews2 followers
August 29, 2018
Really good! I was hoping this series would continue and was glad to find it does. Every book has been wholly different from the last and I really dig the change, but if you had told me that Elizabeth would be reckoning with a society of pirate proto-submariner women in the Caribbean I would have been surprised but also super duper pumped. As always the story was really strong and the characters had the depth and nuance I wish more authors strove for.
More please!
Author 6 books6 followers
June 11, 2018
An excellent continuation of the Gas-Lit Empire universe, and quite a fun read.
Profile Image for Jen.
109 reviews
January 23, 2018
Excellent read! The author does a wonderful job of incorporating new ideas and elements in this series, which I enjoyed. Looking forward to more adventures with Elizabeth!

And I especially enjoyed the elements of chance, fate, free will and unknown things. Brought to mind a conversation I had with someone about Aristotle.
Profile Image for Pers.
1,497 reviews
November 3, 2018
Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! And wow again! And then wow some more!

I was already madly in love with Elizabeth (also known as Edwin) Barnabus, the gender fluid circus-born orphan and intelligence gatherer of Duncan's first trilogy: The Fall of the Gaslit Empire. But now I'm even more madly in love. Elizabeth's best friend, Julia Swain, is flying to America to join her new husband, and her airship is shot down somewhere over the Atlantic - which ought to be impossible because the International Patent Office, chief law-maker and controller of the Gaslit Empire, has outlawed the sort of weapons that would make it possible to shoot down an airship flying at that altitude.

Elizabeth can't accept the loss of her friend as a certain thing, so she persuades her lover, John Farthing of the Patent Office, to bring her the reports relating to the loss of Julia's airship, then she goes to the Patent Office itself to volunteer herself as an investigator - surprisingly, they allow her to go, and she boards an Atlantic whaling ship in the guise of her 'brother' Edwin (her male persona, adopted when a woman wouldn't be able to act) - she is eventually able to establish just what happened to Julia's airship, and a number of others, plus a lost ship - which leads her to the matriarchal nation known as 'Freedom Island' (which is, in fact, a conglomeration of ships that have been lashed together to create the Island).

Undergoing various 'tests' posed by the 'Queen of All Crows', Mother Rebecca, Elizabeth is eventually reunited with Julia, and there follow a series of escapades and excursions across the wide Sargasso Sea, before the pair, along with Elizabeth's young friend, Tinker, a former circus boy himself, eventually make landfall in America.

The pace of this novel is rapid and energetic, and Elizabeth's journeyings introduce us to a whole raft (pun TOTALLY intended! Heh!) of new characters, while keeping us in company with Julia and Tinker. The depiction of the Sargassans - the women of Freedom Island - isn't simplistic nor overwrought, indeed, it's sympathetic and depicts a wide variety of women who live and breathe on the page.

This was a fantastic opener for Duncan's new series, and I'm only slightly annoyed that I don't already have the next book on hand!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
150 reviews
December 31, 2020
Just love this series and so glad Elizabeth Barnabus is back! Getting ready to start book 2 of 3, of The Map of Unknown Things’.
239 reviews
October 28, 2018
2.5 stars - it was something to listen to while sitting in traffic, but a lot of decisions the characters made didn't feel right. For example, why would Elizabeth ask John to risk his life to bring her a file rather than to just read it and tell her what it said later? Why would the Sargassans think selling men into slavery was acceptable, and fail to notice that their own behaviour made them the same as the patriarchy they were trying to escape from?

The character reactions didn't feel right either - Elizabeth barely reacted when Julia was sent to her death by one of the heirs betrayals. To save Julia, she abandoned Tinker, but he didn't seem to factor into her thought processes until much, much later.
Profile Image for TreeFlower.
46 reviews4 followers
April 6, 2019
I LOVED this book. Typical Elizabeth Barnabus doing her thing, leaving me spellbound. I highly anticipated this book and am happy to announce that it met every one of my expectations. Rod Duncan has never disappointed me and I know to expect greatness every time I open the front cover of one of his books. I didn't think that it could get much better than The Fall of The Gas-Lit Empire but I was so wrong. The Map of Unknown Things shows SO much promise and with this first installation, I can barely wait to continue my journey with Elizabeth Barnabus.
Profile Image for Elaine Aldred.
285 reviews4 followers
February 23, 2018
n the year 2012 the International Patent Office continues to maintain a tight grip on the types of technology in use around most the world.

When airships begin disappearing in mid-Atlantic the Patent Office need to find out what is going on. But as their authority does not extend beyond the territorial water of member nations, unofficial methods of investigation have to take place.

Desperate to discover the fate of her closest friend who was on the latest airship to be downed, Elizabeth approaches the Patent Office for recruitment as a spy.

Once again Elizabeth must disguise herself as a man and launch herself into what may be her riskiest situation yet.

Describing a book as a page turner is an overused phrase, but over the last three novels Rod Duncan has devised such devilish situations for his much-put-upon heroine Elizabeth Barnabus you feel the act of reading might be the only way to get her to a place of safety. This series is written in such a way you are afraid a vital event might be going on while you’ve put the book down to take a break.

The author writes his characters well and the plot of the new The Map of Unknown Things series is no less convoluted than the previous Gas Lit Empire trilogy. This story relies particularly on Elizabeth second-guessing the women who rule the inventive floating empire, at the centre of which is the Unicorn, a hulk with a colourful history.

The beauty of this story is that because it is set in a tight-knit community on a man-made (or in this case woman-made) island floating loose on the ocean, Elizabeth has nowhere to run. More than ever this is a battle of wits and wills, which Elizabeth must win or perish. But it is not only Elizabeth’s life that is in danger. Everything has been built into the story to ramp up the tension (and the page turning), creating a delicious anxiety in the reader who needs a stiff drink at the end of it all.

If you’ve missed the previous books, this story stands up just fine on its own, but you will have missed an engaging trilogy where technology is in the frustrating stranglehold of the International Patent Office, and the role of women within its territories it is far too limited for an independent spirit like Elizabeth.

Although well-formed from the beginning, the development of Elizabeth’s character is a complex as her personality and values. That her beloved is an officer within the Patent Office, who is torn by his vocation and the demands Elizabeth makes on it, really creates a depth to a most intriguing fantasy heroine.
Profile Image for Sarah.
467 reviews10 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
November 1, 2021
DNF at page 101

I'm sorry. I just didn't feel like I could give this a fair rating if I finished it, based on the fact that though it's marketed as part one of a trilogy, and a good jumping in point for the Elizabeth Barnabus world, it's actually part four in a series involving Elizabeth Barnabus.

That means that we get very little of the characters' back stories, very little of the world building or explanation for what is going on and how things work, and are therefore left with very little motivation to keep reading and very little sympathy for the characters and the predicaments they find themselves in.

If you do pick up this book, I'd only recommend that you do so after reading the original trilogy. I've not picked up that trilogy as I was sent this book in a book box subscription and did not know until picking it up to read that it was part four in a series.

Though the writing isn't terrible in this, the character Elizabeth Barnabus did not really do much to endear me to her, and I'm left feeling like even if I had the opportunity to read the first three books, I'm not sure I would. The other thing is that the plot in the part of this book I read left me a bit confused as to the motivations for Elizabeth being on the ship in the first place. I didn't understand when it was explained why this was such a big deal and why she had to be there.

I'm quite sad about having to mark this as a DNF, as out of the five books I received in the subscription box that this came in, this and one other were the ones I was most looking forward to. The description on the back makes it sound so interesting, and the cover is amazing. But unfortunately, it just was not meant to be.
Profile Image for Ry Herman.
Author 3 books35 followers
October 9, 2018
I am a bit annoyed by the way this book has been marketed. It is billed as the first book in a trilogy. But reading it, I soon noticed that there was a lot of unexplained backstory. A LOT. After a while I stopped waiting for it to be explained and wondered what was going on.

It turns out that there is another trilogy that came before this one, about the same characters. The author states, "... this is the beginning of a new trilogy, so it is designed as a jumping-on point for new readers. You can start here without reading what has gone before and everything should be clear." That isn't really true. As a reader, you're expected to immediately care about people you know nothing about and have barely met. Many things about them are never explained, because there were three books before covering it already. This is the fourth book in a series, and treating it as anything other than that is a mistake.

That being said, it isn't a bad book, and if I'd been following along from the beginning, I might have given it a higher rating. If I ever do read the first three books, I might revise it upwards. But if I'm being asked to judge it as the first book of a series, then too many times I was left wondering, "Why am I supposed to care so much about people that have hardly appeared on the page?" But if you've read and enjoyed the first three, I think there's a good chance you'll feel the same way about this one.
Profile Image for Will.
418 reviews15 followers
November 29, 2019
2.5 / 5 ✪


The Queen of All Crows serves as my introduction to Rod Duncan, and the world of the Gas-Lit Empire. While the Fall of the Gas-Lit trilogy has been on my TBR for years, I recently came across a copy of All Crows and couldn’t resist getting it. This book begins the Map of Unknown Things trilogy, which I’ve been assured anyone can read, with or without prior knowledge of the world.

Following the events of the Gas-Lit trilogy (I imagine, at least), Elizabeth Barnabus resides in the relative safety of Victorian-Era London, circa 2012. Here, she has hollowed out a life for herself. She has a ward—the boy Tinker, vaguely introduced—a secret lover, John Farthing, member of the all-controlling Patent Office. Everything is set off when Elizabeth’s best friend, Julia, sets off for America to start life anew.

She never makes it.

Airships have been going down in the Atlantic for some time, with Julia’s just another victim of the unknown assailants. And Elizabeth, being the person that she is, heads out to investigate.

Part I of All Crows alternates chapters between the past and the present: the former detailing Elizabeth’s time in London, before setting off, the latter her time at sea, hunting for her friend. Much like much of human societal history, women weren’t treated as regular folk. Which is ridiculous, but. Their ability and demeanor are questioned. They aren’t allowed to sail. They must dress a certain way, act a certain way, and offer their opinion only when asked (which isn’t a given). Given this stigma, Elizabeth Barnabus is forced to dress as a man. And an ugly one, at that. This allows her to move unseen in the world of men, navigating the Atlantic until she finds her friend, or meets her end.

So, first thing: while it wasn’t vital to read the original trilogy first, I feel like it would’ve been really, really helpful. Indeed, would’ve made the read more enjoyable. Without doing so, several of the characters seemed hollow, unexplained—at least at first. Tinker eventually progresses, though neither Farthing nor Julia join him. Even Elizabeth herself isn’t fleshed out until… well, I didn’t feel that she ever fully was. We know snippets of her history, but little of what’s gone on before, which has certainly shaped her as a character.

Elizabeth Barnabus as an experience impresses. A strong female lead, her story really should’ve been the focus. Actually, it probably IS the focus of the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire. I was so into her story that I want to go back and explore what the original trilogy has to offer. Sadly, it’s a focus that never really takes point in All Crows, where—while she is the lead—Elizabeth plays second fiddle to the main plot.

The main story of All Crows provides an ample amount of mystery and intrigue, and when coupled with Elizabeth’s secret identity, serves as an entertaining tale. Until the mystery is blown. When this happens, a subplot regarding the assailants and their lives is introduced. Another tale of lies, intrigue and… meh. This one I never connected with. And though I can follow the obvious parallels, I’m still not sure why Elizabeth connects with it, either. It’s an adequate sort, I’ll grant. But that’s about the height of it. And when the search for Julia near its completion—it pretty much pushes this subplot to the side for a bit before then hurriedly finishing it in an unsatisfying, out of character way.

The world building is pretty solid, but once again it seems like it’d’ve been better if only you read the original trilogy. While the occasional concept or history was adequately explained, I felt like these were few and far between, so much so that the world began to take the shape of a gigantic grey area populated by a few dazzling scenes.


While an intricate and immersive read at times, Queen of All Crows really didn’t inspire me. Elizabeth is a highly interesting character that plays second to a story that comes and goes, before being hurriedly completed. The subplot was a disappointment, one that never really felt important. I feel that fans of the original Gas-Lit books may love this further adventure within the world, but new readers (like me) probably won’t connect with unfleshed characters and a lacking story that really never provided. It’s a 50/50 book, so dunno if I’d recommend it for new readers. But I’m leaning towards not.

The Map of Unknown Things continues with the Outlaw and the Upstart King.
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