If you like fantasy blended with historical fiction, you need to check this book out. Queen of the Conquered is what I wanted The Night Circus to be. There was even more in store with this book than I was anticipating from the blurb. It involves revenge, survival, a competition for the throne of Hans Lollik and a slave rebellion. This book had some flaws, but at the same time it blew my mind, and I am very excited to read the sequel. That says a lot considering that I don’t usually care too much for fantasy. I was drawn to this book by the cover and the title, and it did not disappoint.
- Name: Queen of the Conquered
- Author: Kacen Callender
- Genre: Fantasy
- Page count: 400
- Published: November 12, 2019
An ambitious young woman with the power to control minds seeks vengeance against the royals who murdered her family, in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression.
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.
First, I have to talk about storm season because it isn’t alluded to in the blurb. Sigourney receives an invitation to stay at the king’s island during storm season when the weather is deadly, and only the Fjern (noble families) have the privilege of escaping. Another aspect of storm season is that it brings all of the noble families together. In close quarters, they have the chance to air their grievances against each other, meaning no one is safe. More importantly, the storm season is an opportunity for each of the Fjern to make their claim to the throne. Given that no one accepts Sigourney as a member of the Fjern because of her dark skin, they are displeased by her presence on the king’s island. They try to stay alive and win the king’s approval, and this is what I mean by Queen of the Conquered being what I wanted to get out of The Night Circus. The competition is high-stakes, and with an unknown kraft presenting itself on the island, the tension is even higher.
The plot is incredible. It has a hero who becomes the villain, big twists, and a mystery. This book gets you to think about privilege, oppression, and the monstrous things people will do in order to stay in power. It also shows you that there is a huge difference between a person’s intentions and their impact.
Queen of the Conquered is an experience and it kept making my eyes grow wide as I read it. I was surprised by the turn this book took, and I can’t get over how intense the ending was!
Sigourney Rose is a morally grey protagonist and an unreliable narrator. Her obsession with revenge clouds her judgement; however, it’s easy to become invested in her mission and take on some of her anger. She isn’t meant to be likeable, and it takes talent to pull off a character like her.
The Fjern are the rulers of Hans Lollik. The only thing separating them from the islanders is their light skin, yet they use this as the basis for enslaving the islanders and colonizing their land. The Fjern take refuge on the king’s island during the deadly storm season that takes place every year, while the islanders are left defenseless. Each member of the noble families has a unique kraft (ex. knowing the truth, able to inflict pain with their mind, and sensing others’ kraft). However, islanders that have kraft are executed. Some of the Fjern are more interested in ruling Hans Lollik than others, but they are united in preventing Sigourney from taking the throne, and they all have secrets.
I liked the supporting characters, especially Marieke, and I was really interested in Løren, the half-brother of one of the heads of the noble families.
I most likely would have rated this book five stars if it weren’t for the repetitive writing. Sigourney has a detailed plan for how she’s going to take the throne. For some reason, she repeats her plan in full detail multiple times, even though it’s clear from the beginning. Similarly, she frequently thought about how much the islanders hated her. It was almost as if certain sentences were being copy-pasted throughout the book.
Queen of the Conquered exceeded my expectations and evoked my emotions. Despite it being fantasy, this book is a mirror for colonialism and is very timely. I’m impressed with Kacen Callender’s creativity, and I think this would make an excellent screen adaptation. The only downfall was that this book needed better editing. If you’ve read anything by Marlon James, there’s a high chance that this book will be up your alley.