As a critic, one thing that annoys me to no end is when reviewers comment that there is a lack of plot or character development in a novella. A novella is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. Thus, intrinsic to the format, there cannot be long discourses that allow for character profiles or a study in intent. Therefore the reader must expect a certain level of a lack of above components because, well, there just isn’t enough time or space. It’s not that complicated.
SK Thomas’ “Pawned Queen” takes advantage of this style of narrative to present a thriller that is, as expected, fervently plotted and quick witted. The story itself is a splice of Gone Girl meets The Girl on the Train with its tone of untrustworthy characters with questionable intents. The novella finds the missing character Alice being sought after by her close friend, Melissa, who herself suspects Alice’s husband might be to blame for Alice’s disappearance. Resolute in her suspicions, Melissa enlists the help of her husband to search for her missing friend, and to bring the perpetrator to justice.
Thomas’ work is ambitious. She clearly wants to include the many literary devices that have brought great success to the genre by other authors. However, it is sometimes these extravagant ambitions that work against her. The book relies heavily upon flashbacks with different points of view, which at times give the novella a jarring and semi-confusing tone. This very well may be Thomas’ intentional way on throwing the reader for a loop, and if so, good on her for doing it so consistently and without fail.
Fraught with excitement, “Pawned Queen” is an entertaining piece of fiction that maintained my attention throughout. I did not necessarily dislike the lack of character development because it alluded to the overall theme of the novella of the presence of malice in everyday life.