If you want to kill the Rat Queens, you’d better be sure to get it right the first time otherwise there’s no stopping them from uncovering your fiendish plot. Like any good quest, even an insular one, there’s a process of discovery. What starts as something as simple as killing a bunch of trolls quickly turns into a secondary quest to find out why the trolls were there in the first place, leading the adventuring party further and further down the rabbit hole until the true plot comes to light. Rat Queens #3 manages to solve the mystery but does so in a way that is organic and true to its cast of kickass female characters.
Imprisoned, albeit briefly, for impersonating Sawyer in an attempt to implicate Mayor Kane in the murders of several adventuring parties in Palisade, Hannah and the real Sawyer spend some time comparing notes on the subject. While Hannah is ready to put all the blame on Kane, Sawyer did some digging of his own and reports that the Merchant’s Guild was responsible for purchasing the quests that got the other parties killed and nearly killed the Rat Queens. With this new information, the Queens send Betty and Dee to get a read on the leader of the Merchant’s Guild, Mr. Lake, but Betty finds, in a very Sherlockian way, that while the man himself may not be behind the purchase of the quests meant to kill them, he might have some information worth stealing that could shed more light on the mystery. Breaking into Lake’s office, Betty finds a number of scrolls, one of which is a loan from Old Lady Bernadette for damages caused by the Queens. Resolved to make right an apologize to the woman they’ve treated poorly in the course of their drunken evenings of revelry and brawling, Betty discovers that there’s more to Old Lady Bernadette than the Queens thought. For one thing, she’s only thirty-nine!
Filling in the spaces in between the main story, though it’s hardly filler, Kurtis J. Wiebe devotes a lot of this issue to fleshing out the personal lives of the Queens. Hannah and Sawyer’s talk while she’s imprisoned is an opportunity to ground Hannah a bit more, humanizing her through the obviously failed relationship with Sawyer and the complications that come with working around someone she obviously cared about and who obviously cared, and still cares, about her. Sawyer plainly states that Hannah’s presence in Palisade keeps it from being paradise, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Betty tries to rekindle the love connection she had just prior to the beginning of the book, bringing flowers and an apology to the girl who Hannah punched over a joke taken too far. Unfortunately, Betty’s former lover is just that. She’s unwilling to take Betty back because of the friends she associates with, specifically Hannah, but leaves the door open should Betty decide to leave her friends behind. Violet, during a vigorous training session, gets a visit from her twin brother, Barrie Blackforge, who believes it’s time she ended her little journey of self-discovery. Violet responds appropriately by sending him home with his broken sword between his legs. Also, apparently Violet had a beard. All of this continues to be rendered beautifully by Roc Upchurch’s art. Wiebe and Upchurch seem to feed off each other with Wiebe’s humor and excellent storytelling fueling the hilarious and heart-breaking situations of all four Queens.
The only one with very little character development is Dee, which is a shame because all of the moments I previously described served to highlight the complicated lives of our heroines. This is hardly your garden variety fantasy story. The characters function as real people and Wiebe does a remarkable job of highlighting their unique personalities while simultaneously uniting them through a shared sense of wit and humor. Hopefully Dee will get some more backstory, but we are treated to a nice blurb about her former life as an elder god’s acolyte. The thoroughfare in the narrative is that the Queens are a team and, more importantly, friends. They’re willing to stick together even if it costs them severed relationships with friends, family, and lovers. Unfortunately, their friendship might have caused something a bit more high stakes to occur as well.
Final Thoughts: Old Lady Bernadette is such a B. I mean, really. You have no idea.