Xandra lives in a world in which the plague in Europe had the effect of turning the members of the aristocracy who survived it into vampires and werewolves and goblins live underground. It's the twenty-first century, but Queen Victoria, a vampire, still sits on the throne, and Churchhill was still alive when the series began. As a result, contemporary style and technology is mixed with the Victorian- the long-lived vampires and werewolves don't change their ways easily- and much of history is different. (I recall a passing reference to a German painter named Adolf something in one of the earlier books.) These creatures share the world not only with ordinary humans, with whom they don't mingle much and who have in the past risen against them, and with "halvies," the offspring who are faster and stronger than humans but don't have the full abilities of the supernatural races.
Since God Save the Queen, Xandra discovered that in spite of her halvie appearance, she is actually a goblin, in spite of her ability to go out in daylight and her lack of fur, and at the request of the goblin prince William and the rest of his "plague" (or pack), she has taken the throne as the Goblin Queen. Naturally, this makes for a difficult relationship with Queen Victoria, who still rules over all the races of the empire. Now, a genetically engineered killer has escaped from a lab that briefly captured Xandra in the last book for experimentation, and since she did a serious number on Vex, the alpha werewolf and Xandra's lover, it's obvious that it will take everything Xandra and her friends can bring in order to stop her.
I love this series. Yes, Xandra is a bit of a special snowflake, but I like so much else that I'll let her specialness slide. Although she's overly impulsive sometimes, Xandra is genuinely kickass, and I love that if she says she has to do something alone, it generally means that she knows that she can handle it and isn't setting up for her to be rescued later. In the series as a whole, she and Vex both come to each other's rescue at various times and their relationship is refreshingly equal in a way that doesn't normally come to mind when authors start tossing the phrase "alpha werewolf" around. Her relationship with her family is complicated, but her love for her sisters is always clear, and even the people with whom she has difficult relationships come across as believable, complicated people rather than pure villains. Plus, I just generally like the inventive worldbuilding in this series, which resembles no other urban fantasy series I know. (It gets marketed as steampunk a lot, and although I think it would appeal to a lot of steampunk fans, I actually think it is backwards steampunk. Steampunk is Victorian setting with more advanced technology mixed in; Immortal Empire is the contemporary world with aspects of Victorian life retained.)
There were some writing ticks that bothered me in this one that I hadn't noticed before, or maybe they're new. For example, how many times does Xandra need to talk about how often she raises an eyebrow? It's one thing to do it a lot and another thing to have her in the narration talking a lot about how she does it a lot, sometimes because somebody else in her family is doing it. That aside, I still heartily recommend it.
Overall Grade: A-