Wild Cards Three Kings

Image of Wild Cards Three Kings
Release Date: 
February 15, 2022
Tor Books
Reviewed by: 

“This is a fairly engaging work of fiction, if not terribly layered or complex.”

In an alternate world just after WWII an alien virus (called the Wild Card) was released over New York City. Able to rewrite human DNA, the virus killed 99% of those it infected and of those that survived, 99% were mutated (often crippled) into various forms and shapes, some hideous. These poor souls were called Jokers. The other 1% were given superhuman abilities becoming heroes and villains. They were dubbed Aces.

That’s the set up for the Wild Card universe, a series of over 20 books ranging from anthologies and solo works involving over 40 authors. Three Kings is the second of what is known as the British Arc.

Queen Margaret, who succeeded to the British throne after the death of her sister Elizabeth, is dying and the succession is in doubt because of her eldest, Henry, is a bigoted fool who thinks Jokers should be run out of the country. Richard, her other son, handsome and charismatic, is a closeted homosexual whose real ambitions are unknown. Her only choice, a Joker born to her late sister and reported as a stillbirth, but who still might be alive. This Joker baby is the true heir to the throne of England.

Add to the mix a former agent an organization much like MI-5, but with Aces (called the Silver Helix) and a violent terrorist group of pro-Joker activists (called the Twisted Fists) and the reader is left with a mélange of political intrigue. Then blend with an Ace who believes herself to be an ancient Celtic goddess of war (Badb) and the fun really begins.

This is a fairly engaging work of fiction, if not terribly layered or complex. It certainly doesn’t reach the level of intrigue shown by Dan Brown or Michael Connelly, but it does manage to keep the reader turning pages to see if their favorite characters manage to survive.

To be fair to the rest of the series, this book in the Wild Card series really doesn’t hold much water. It fails to capture weirdness and gritty superhero vibe found in the first dozen books, but it does offer a pleasant diversion from the more pedestrian fare found the shelves of Barnes and Noble.

The reader doesn’t need to pore over the entire collection to grasp the story here, there is enough plot exposition and subtle backstory to fill in the gaps quite nicely. Three Kings reads well enough as a stand-alone so one doesn’t have to read the first installment, Knaves over Queens, although it would help.

If the reader wants a competent tale to divert them for a few hours, then Three Kings manages to do just that, but don’t expect more than the bare minimum of entertainment here.