Constance Verity Saves the World
Written by: A. Lee Martinez
Published by: Saga Press
Genre: Adventure, humour
A review by Brooke Ali
In this sequel to the thoroughly enjoyable The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, Constance is adjusting to life after breaking, then reabsorbing some of the caretaker destiny. While still full of adventure, her life has come under her control over the past year, enough that she’s able to devote energy to her relationship with Byron and take Tia on as her official full-time side-kick. When she’s hired by her sort-of ex-boyfriend to help put his mother’s evil corporation on the straight and narrow, Constance may find that the non-adventuring parts of her life offer some of her biggest challenges.
One of Martinez’s great strengths is playing with genre tropes. For a lot of adventure stories, relationships are little more than foils; romantic interests are there to a) be placed in danger for the hero to save, or b) die horribly to provide the main character with pathos or a tragic backstory. In Constance Verity Saves the World, Constance’s relationships with Byron and Tia are a major plot throughout the story, not to create pathos or artificial tension but as the arc of her character growth. Even when Byron does need rescuing (come on, you know it’s still going to happen) the action of the rescue takes a backseat for a moment as they navigate their relationship (Ever read a book where henchagents become emotionally invested in their captives’ relationship? Now you can!)
Byron even talks at one point about feeling like a prop, making this the only time I know of where the romantic interest in need of rescuing mentions their own objectification. This meta element is made all the more striking by the gender swap; Constance is a female adventurer who needs to rescue her male partner from the clutches of a female evil mastermind. Martinez doesn’t make Byron a passive damoiseau in distress; he still has enough agency to participate in the action.
As always, Martinez’s world building is on point. He’s managed to create a reality that perfectly blends our every day world with the ridiculousness of Constance’s adventures, tongue held firmly in cheek for the many tropes and cliches of the science fiction and adventure genres. Aliens and robots still break walls in the heat of battle, but also someone is going to have to fix the damage and they may as well fit in some renos while they’re at it. Whether it’s Constance Verity’s world, an alien’s living room, or the speech patterns of a subterranean starfish creature, every piece feels grounded and fully fleshed out. This also goes for the characters.
Constance is strong and snarky, but also struggles with her vulnerability. Tia avoids being the sassy black girlfriend and instead proves her own mettle (with a large amount of wit). Even side characters like Apollonia, set up early as a Chekhov’s gun in the plot, get to prove that they’re more than they seem.
Buy it! A. Lee Martinez has long been one if my favourite authors, and the Constance Verity series is a strong addition to his catalogue. He has a wildly inventive mind that is currently doing fresh and wonderful things with genre fiction. If you haven’t read The Last Adventure of Constance Verity pick it up first and then join me in crossing my fingers very hard for a third (I’m looking forward to seeing Cupcake get in some adventuring!).