cover image Three Kings

Three Kings

Edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass. Tor, $27.99 (240p) ISBN

The enjoyable 29th Wild Cards collaborative fantasy (following Joker Moon) returns to a world changed by an alien virus that both blesses its survivors with amazing powers and curses them with terrible transformations, the different strains of which are named after playing cards. Now the U.K. is thrown into upheaval by the death of Queen Margaret. While her anti-joker heir, Henry, plans to make England “Anglo-Saxon” again, former spymaster Alan Turing investigates reports of a potential alternate claimant to the throne: a joker who was spirited away at birth. As violence against wild cards increases, both the terrorist organization Twisted Fists and Britain’s ace-employing spy agency the Silver Helix are drawn into the conflict on opposing sides, and teleporting ex-assassin Noel Matthews is called back into service at Henry’s behest. Meanwhile, Babd, goddess of war, manipulates every side toward her own bloody ends. Contributors Mary Anne Mohanraj, Peter Newman, Peadar Ó Guilín, Melinda M. Snodgrass, and Caroline Spector create a mosaic exploration of the conflict, balancing the political intrigue with romance and revenge. For all its high stakes, there’s an intimate feel to this due to the compressed time frame and limited setting. While not the most ambitious in the series, this is an entertaining return to a world that never grows dull. (Mar.)