Thursday, November 21, 2019

Review: Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

Queen of the Conquered
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender
Publication Date: November 12th, 2019
Paperback. 400 pages

About Queen of the Conquered:

"Sigourney Rose is the only surviving daughter of a noble lineage on the islands of Hans Lollik. When she was a child, her family was murdered by the islands’ colonizers, who have massacred and enslaved generations of her people—and now, Sigourney is ready to exact her revenge. 

When the childless king of the islands declares that he will choose his successor from amongst eligible noble families, Sigourney uses her ability to read and control minds to manipulate her way onto the royal island and into the ranks of the ruling colonizers. But when she arrives, prepared to fight for control of all the islands, Sigourney finds herself the target of a dangerous, unknown magic. 

Someone is killing off the ruling families to clear a path to the throne. As the bodies pile up and all eyes regard her with suspicion, Sigourney must find allies among her prey and the murderer among her peers... lest she become the next victim."

Queen of the Conquered was a punch of a novel that I did not expect. This is an intense book that is definitely not for the fainthearted.

Queen of the Conquered follows Sigourney Rose, the last person alive in her family after a brutal attack when she was a young child that resulted in the brutal death of everyone in her family, including all children. She was able to escape and begin life (somewhat) anew under a new guise in which she attempts to work her way up to becoming ruler of Hans Lollik herself. Oh yeah, and she can read people's minds and essentially control their actions and thoughts if she so chooses, as well.

The most compelling and prominent component at the center of this book is Sigourney herself. She faces immense hatred and prejudice from everyone around her, including the slaves she rules over and the white colonizers, commonly known as the Fjerns, that she tries to work with. Sigourney is fully aware of the hatred coming at her on sides because of how she decides to achieve her goals; she doesn't allow her slaves to be harmed, but she also doesn't  give them their freedom as her mother promised them. The Fjerns, of course, simply classify her as being no better than an 'islander' (synonymous with slave) and can't fathom how someone that looks like her could ever be allowed to do anything they do. (If you're feeling frustrated already, I'm right there with you--this book is a lot to take in!) There's a variety of other characters that we meet from all different parts and stations within this world and I loved seeing how each one interacted with those around them as well as with Sigourney herself.

Callender's analysis of power, privilege, and race was so nuanced and well done. I found myself thinking about this book and all of the topics it handles almost all the time when I put this book down. It covers so many crucial topics that are so relevant in today's world and that I think are great discussion-starters on how we perceive those around us, how privilege is distributed in the world, who has power, how that power is executed, and so many more truly important topics.

The Caribbean inspiration for this story came through extremely well and I loved getting a setting/background that I've never experienced before (and from an author that knows what they're talking about) and I really hope to see more Caribbean-inspired fantasy in the future. The weather and descriptions of the islands combined with the historical background that Callender relates brought this setting to life and I loved getting to spend some time in it.

I can see how the writing style of Queen of the Conquered could be hit or miss for people, though I personally really enjoyed it. Sigourney has a very distinct narrative voice. It's one that I would describe as being more on the dry and -sounding side--or at least that's how I interpreted it. I personally liked it because, for me, it effectively conveyed the almost 'heartless' emotional state of Sigourney herself and how she has essentially hardened herself against the world around her. She doesn't intrude into people's minds to hear their hatred for her because she already knows it's there no matter what she does.

My main drawbacks would be around pacing and info-dumping. There were a few areas where Sigourney appeared to essentially look into the background of people through her mind-reading  and would then convey to us the background story of them which just felt like a lot of info-dumping that was hard to keep track of and that I didn't always care about. This also then affected the pacing by making it somewhat choppy and more difficult to get through. Despite these issues, I really don't have much else to complain about!

Overall, I've given Queen of the Conquered 4.25 stars! I cannot wait for the sequel (which was just announced the day I'm writing this review!).

*I received an ARC of Queen of the Conquered courtesy of Orbit books in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this sounds quite good, and it's new to me as well. I love the sound of the Caribbean- inspired setting, and yes it sounds super relevant! Glad this one turned out so well!