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Queen of the Conquered

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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 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. Queen of the Conquered reckons with the many layers of power and privilege in a lush fantasy world—perfect for readers of V. E. Schwab, Kiersten White, and Marlon James.


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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 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. Queen of the Conquered reckons with the many layers of power and privilege in a lush fantasy world—perfect for readers of V. E. Schwab, Kiersten White, and Marlon James.

30 review for Queen of the Conquered

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!!! i showed up early to a book reading/signing last week, and once i had settled comfortably into my seat, i took this book out of my bag and started reading. the woman next to me noticed the cover and exclaimed that she had just finished it herself and loved it, enthusiastically praising its merits. this is that kind of book. the people who love it are going to gush about it; chatting up strangers, recommending it to friends, gift-wrapping it for family members. me, i’m the jerk who NOW AVAILABLE!!! i showed up early to a book reading/signing last week, and once i had settled comfortably into my seat, i took this book out of my bag and started reading. the woman next to me noticed the cover and exclaimed that she had just finished it herself and loved it, enthusiastically praising its merits. this is that kind of book. the people who love it are going to gush about it; chatting up strangers, recommending it to friends, gift-wrapping it for family members. me, i’m the jerk who can’t keep my mouth shut and just nod along when a very sweet lady—a fellow book-nerd—is so passionate about a book that she assumes everyone loves it as much as she did, and i gotta go and deflate her squee-bubble with my honest-but-mood-killing, “yeah, i’m halfway through and i’m still trying to get into it…” so, yeah. it’s that kind of book, but i’m not that kind of reader. before i dig in, i will say that the ‘turn’ in this caught me completely off-guard in the best possible way; a perfectly ‘fair play’ resolution to the mystery that i did not see coming, but was so satisfying a solution that i thought it was going to be one of those books with such a strong ending that it would redeem the so-so feelings i’d had up until that point. but no; the ending is more like a baton-pass or a hot potato, which wouldn’t ordinarily bother me, if i’d been enjoying the book, but in this case it made me feel like shouting “WHY IS THIS MY RESPONSIBILITY??” still, for a third-act chunk of it, i was so hooked. there’s so much “almost” here—so much i almost like, and now that i’ve finished it, i wish i could sit down with that nice lady from the reading and hash it all out with her. instead, i’ll just type words here by myself. sniff. first things first—i read an ARC of this, and it’s an ARC that—one hopes—was going to have another editorial go-round before publication; it’s got all sorts of distracting typos and misused words, and that’s fine—that’s pretty much expected in an ARC, and my brain will overwrite the errors as it reads, but there’re* also some less-cosmetic issues that bugged me—inconsistencies and repetitions and stylistic awkwardness, and it’s hard to know if this is ‘fix it in post’ ARC-roughness that’ll be smoothed and tightened in the final book, or if i’m just not keen on the author’s storytelling choices. the nutshell-plot: this is a fantasy-slant on scandinavian colonialism in the caribbean, in a world where certain individuals are born with magical abilities known as ‘kraft.’ here, the collectively—named ‘islanders’ have been enslaved by the fjern, subjected to all the brutality and indignities of historical slavery, as well as the authorized execution of any islander found to have kraft, which is considered too dangerous a weapon for the oppressed to have. only one of the many islands making up the nation of hans lollik is held by an islander—one sigourney lund, who was born sigourney rose, daughter of a noble family who were all massacred when she was a little girl. she escaped, but was presumed dead, and has been in hiding ever since, plotting to avenge her family, take the throne for her people, and then free her slaves along with all of the others. she is also the only islander (reluctantly) permitted to have kraft, which in her manifests as the ability to read minds. using her power to manipulate those around her, not above a little light murder, she manages to arrange her marriage to a fjerd whose family is one of the kongelig—noble families and advisors to the king, who has summoned the kongelig to his island for the storm season, at the end of which he will choose his successor from their number. this number of contenders gets smaller and smaller as the kongelig begin to die mysteriously during their time on the island, and, although she does not mind that her competition is being eliminated—these pale-skinned monsters responsible for her family’s death—sigourney begins to suspect all is not as it seems with the king, the kongelig, the whole situation. the premise is excellent; the outline of the story is great, if you were to bullet-point it all out, but the difficulty for me as a reader is in the delivery; the mode of storytelling. i wholeheartedly applaud callender’s decision to make sigourney an unsympathetic protagonist, which was entirely successful. she is not well-liked—certainly not by the fjerd, who despise her on racial grounds, but also by her own people, who see her as a race-traitor for not freeing her own slaves. for both of these reasons, she also hates herself, which readers are told again and again throughout the novel. her big plan is to take the throne, free her people, and be seen as some savior, but she’s unwilling to free her own slaves until she achieves this goal because—she reasons—she needs them in order to get the throne in the first place; to be seen as an equal to the fjern, whose respect she craves even as she despises them, thinking that playing the game by their rules is the only way to win. she consoles herself with the fact that she doesn’t beat or execute her slaves (much), and she’s really doing all of this for her people and they’ll thank her for it later. all of which is wildly self-delusional, which her people recognize even if she can’t—the fjern will never consider her an equal because that’s how racism works, her people will never forgive her for owning them, and she’s really only out for her own power and status. she’s selfish and entitled and so fortunate to be free, she’s no different than the kongelig—believing that she knows what’s best for the islanders and making decisions for them accordingly. What have I done for this boy—for any of the slaves of Hans Lollik—to hate me the way that they do? Shouldn’t they be glad, to see one of their own free and among the kongelig, to potentially gain the power to release us all from the Fjern? I’ve sacrificed myself for this—my freedom, my peace, potentially my life—and rather than meeting me with thanks and love, I’m met with such hatred. it’s a bold move on the author’s part, making the protagonist so very much part of the problem, so complicit in the power structures keeping her own people down, so superficially conflicted, morally, about bedding her slaves when she feels the need for physical attentions. i prefer a complex, ethically-challenged character to one who’s squeaky-clean and flat (like beata larsen, the true-love of sigourney's new husband), and i could have put up with sigourney’s constant stream of shame and self-loathing if she’d demonstrated some of the ambition and ferocity that got her to this part of her journey, but once she gets to the island, once her goal is in sight, she just…stalls. she obeys the king's orders and submits to the other kongelig's demands, even when she doesn't agree with them, but when it comes to furthering her own agenda, she slows her roll, earning her an admonishment from her ally and confidante marieke, the only slave she's ever freed: "You should have patience, yes—but not to the point that you miss your opportunity." for someone who wants to rule the world, she sure isn’t enterprising. she discovers things and then just sorta waits around to see what will happen next, like there aren’t bodies dropping all around her and everyone hates her and she could be next. she’s inflexible; sticking to her plan, unable or unwilling to act on new information/adapt to new circumstances even when it becomes clear that she needs to adjust her approach. for someone who can read minds, she sure can’t read a room. or understand people. or—most unforgivably—tell a story. and here’s where i finally address my biggest complaint with the book (“it's about time!” exclaims the one person still reading this review) this book is written as one info-dump after another, as sigourney reads people’s minds and turns it into pages of exposition, which makes for such a dull and uninflected reading experience. when there’s dialogue, yay! when there’s action, bigger yay! but pages of first person present tense regurgitation of what people are thinking and feeling, recounting their memories and motivations, is just so limiting. it’s a slog to get through. least, it was for me. anyway, there it is. there’s a lot in this book that i appreciated, and there were scenes that i liked, and a moment where i thought it could be love, but the writing style was difficult for me to get into, so as excellent as the excellent parts truly were, the first 3/4 of it was stylistically exhausting, and i could not recover, even though i so badly wanted to. * i’m also curious whether the author’s insistence that “there’re” is a word will pass the gate. where are we on this? it’s not something i’ve seen before outside of phonetic dialogue, and they used it a lot and it stabbed me in the eye every time. i am blaming the overuse of the word “there’re” for this bloodblob that appeared in my eye last week—when i was reading this book—and i only just now, when complaining about this word, made the causal connection. j'accuse! ****************************** resumed! ****************************** pause for now. fifty pages in and it's not grabbing me yet, or i'm not *getting* it yet, but the writing style is uneven and the too-many typos in the ARC are distracting and i have too much to read right now to handle a slow-pacer, so imma zoom through some less-demanding books and circle back, maybe continuing with a finished copy. I WILL RETURN!!! come to my blog!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    I feel like this particular snake is making an appearance on all my highly anticipated SFF novels of 2019, and I'm not mad about it. *Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Racism as the most salient topic Racism is insanely boring. I almost didn't think I'd have it in me to follow through all the skin-colour-themed debacles. In real life, I imagine, it's even worse. I've got some questions to the people of the countries that practiced (or maybe still do) racism: how the fuck can people, sane and seemingly adequate, find time and will and effort and energy to go about all the racist bullshit? Were they bored? Had they nothing better to do? No other endeavours to Racism as the most salient topic Racism is insanely boring. I almost didn't think I'd have it in me to follow through all the skin-colour-themed debacles. In real life, I imagine, it's even worse. I've got some questions to the people of the countries that practiced (or maybe still do) racism: how the fuck can people, sane and seemingly adequate, find time and will and effort and energy to go about all the racist bullshit? Were they bored? Had they nothing better to do? No other endeavours to apply themselves to? Sad people with pathetic little minds. Stupidity The book - everyone in it behaved in the most moronic way imaginable. I'm not even going to count all the instances: I'll just relax and consider this to be a fun book about really stupid people. In all seriousness, there isn't a single character who did not behave in the most stupid ways. I don't think I've ever seen such a set of dolts (both islanders and masters) in a good book. In all seriousness, most of the Fejrn don't really want to be on the islands and most of the islanders don't want them to be there, none of the island actors communicate (even though they actually could act as a unique front or something), it's pathetic how everyone wallows in the mess of their own creation. But that's me and the plot being a bit at odds with each other. Everyone is plotting against everyone else and perceives others only as tools and is ready to stab the next person in the back at the nearest opportunity. The deceived are the deceivers at all times. The whole is plenty disgusting to behold. I think the idea must have been that whenever one inflicts something upon the world, the world responds in kind, with a taste of one's own medicine (i.e. Marieke vs Sigourney vs rebels vs Fejd vs everyone else). Communication is crucial and it incredibly backwards throught the whole mess. Angst One could eat all the angst with a spoon: all the guilt trips, righteousness, constant mess that the characters insist on creating just to wallow in it all even more... As I'm a sucker for angst, I think #2 will be a fair read. Q: The ocean has always terrified me. It isn’t meant for the living. The water, burning my eyes and nose and throat, can so easily fill my lungs; the power of the tide can pull me beneath its waves. Most frightening of all are the spirits. (c) Q: I feel that there’s regret in his gut, regret he hopes I won’t see, though he knows any emotion he has, any thought of his, belongs to me. If I will it, I can hear his thoughts the way I might think to myself; his emotions become my own. It requires effort, yes—energy, to make my mind become one with another’s—but after holding this kraft for so many years, it’s a skill that comes with the ease of racing across the fields of Lund Helle, or holding my breath beneath the sea. (c) Q: He prayed to the gods of the masters, asking for forgiveness, even though the masters don’t believe that taking the life of an islander is a sin, and so there would be nothing to forgive. (c) Q: For a moment, I feel death—know what it is to die, just as I have felt a thousand times. (c) Q: Most would rather pray to the Fjern gods, hoping for freedom, than fight for their freedom in life. In a way, I admire the dead rebels at my feet. (c) Q: Working. This is easier than saying his parents are slaves. (c) Q: “Focus only on yourself and your ambitions... and soon you’ll find that you care not what a single person thinks. Not even your gods.” (с) Q: I miss my mother, and the years that I never got to have with her. (c) Q: “If you aren’t careful, the Jannik family might inherit your enemies.” “The Lund family is strong enough that it doesn’t matter which enemies you inherit. You should be grateful.” (с) Q: If I’d been told as a child that I deserve to own all I see, maybe I would believe it, too. But it’s because I haven’t been told this, and they have, that I’ll succeed over them; this I know, because while they sit and wait to be handed this world, I’ll work and I’ll fight for my position. I’ll succeed, while they wait for me to fail. (c) Q: His life holds the strength of the generations of spirits who came before him. All the islanders who line up behind him like an army, giving him the power to continue the fight that they could not.(c) Q: It’s easy, when surrounded by people who question you, to begin questioning yourself. (c) Q: He exuded the confidence only a person who knows the world belongs to them can exude: There’s no need for self-consciousness, or to second-guess your actions, or the words that fall from your mouth, when you know there will be no consequence—when you know that the world will still be yours. (c) Q: She has always wanted to learn as much as she could, reading her texts and studying her sciences, doing her experiments on herbs and blood; but for Erik, his curiosity appeared in other ways. His was a curiosity for life. Curiosity for others: for their bodies, for their lives. He longed to know the stories of the people around him. Longed to know their motivations, their desires. (c) Q: Gods, what he could do with this kraft of mine: learn the secrets of all those around him, learn of their desires so that he can fulfill them. Erik doesn’t believe in forcing the loyalty of others. He believes in inspiring such a love in followers that they would die for him. (c) Q: It’s interesting to me that he can feel confident that he’ll live, but is also resigned to die. (c) Q: Yes, of course Marieke was my slave, when I wouldn’t grant her the coin my family owed her for her years of service, along with the coin owed her dead daughter and the girl’s father. How could she be anything but a slave, when she had nowhere to live, no food to eat, no opportunity? She’d had no choice but to stay with me, Løren believes, and this perhaps was the worst sort of slavery: one that’s mocking as it declares its freedom, punishing Marieke for making her imagine it’s her own choice in staying. (c)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Holly (Holly Hearts Books)

    "Focus on yourself and your ambitions and soon you'll find that you care not what a single person thinks."

  5. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    The premise of this book is incredible. It's set in an alt-Euro-colonised Caribbean island archipelago, where the white colonisers have enslaved the black islanders and the worst vilenesses of slavery go on. The various islands are ruled by white families. Our POV character is Sigourney, the mixed race inheritor of a white family who were murdered by the other top families and who is now scheming her way to becoming the next regent of the islands, in order to wreak revenge for her bereavement The premise of this book is incredible. It's set in an alt-Euro-colonised Caribbean island archipelago, where the white colonisers have enslaved the black islanders and the worst vilenesses of slavery go on. The various islands are ruled by white families. Our POV character is Sigourney, the mixed race inheritor of a white family who were murdered by the other top families and who is now scheming her way to becoming the next regent of the islands, in order to wreak revenge for her bereavement and gain power. Not, you note, in order to free her people. This is not YA, and Sigourney is a magnificent depiction of the oppressed becoming the oppressor. She talks about wanting to free the islanders, wanting their love--but she's still a slave owner, she sexually exploits slaves and has them whipped or killed when it suits her, and there is a superbly chilling moment when, asked if she will free her people when she's regent, she reflects that, after all, will the islands be economically viable without slave labour? This is one of the best depictions of the corruption of colonialism I've ever seen--she's outraged at racist wrongs to herself but the sorry sordid truth is she doesn't want to change the system so much as she wants to be on top of it. It reminds me powerfully of Wizard of the Crow in the way it shows the cascade of evils that flow from colonialism. This aspect of the book is just so good. Sigourney isn't evil or sociopathic: she's not even abnormally selfish, and that's the most monstrous thing of all. The author's note comments that everyone now assumes they'd have been part of the resistance or the revolution or the Underground Railway, whereas, in fact, an awful lot of people and especially those who aren't being oppressed will stay complicit in oppression rather than risking their own privilege. And when it's a choice between Sigourney's own wellbeing or that of a slave...well, she debates it internally, but she always makes the same choice. The awful thing is, we're fairly sure she would have been a perfectly adequate human if she hadn't been born into a society of grotesque inequality and racial cruelty and violence, but she was, and we see how warped it makes her. (Let me state here that anyone going 'oh but the heroine was so unlikeable!' about this book has missed the point so hard they're going backwards.) There's a sort of mystery element to the book where the top families come together to be considered for the regency in a wild Game of Thrones thing as they set about murdering each other. The revelation of the killer at the end is spectacular (view spoiler)[ in large part because the author totally blindsides the reader by making us complicit in the habits of thinking that also blindside the victims. It's a genius twist, which is underdelivered in a really odd way by having it conveyed as a sort of synopsis. (hide spoiler)] The book is let down by some editing issues, mostly repetition. The narrative tells us the same things repeatedly, giving us the motives or attributes of characters over and over again, sometimes within just a couple of pages. This slows the book badly and really should have been dealt with by a line editor, especially with a book this long--I think you could lose 10% by cutting the repetition. I'm cross it wasn't, because the book is original, powerful, engaging, and necessary.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Angelica

    At this point, I'm just gonna add every book with this snake on the cover. It's the exact same snake and all the books sound oh so good!

  7. 4 out of 5

    AJ

    Not only is this a gorgeous but this book is about the colonisation of the Caribbean????! I am here for any book where colonisers are the villains!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Yanique Gillana

    So disappointing... 1.2 stars Characters: 1 Setting: 1 World Building: 0 Plot: 2 Language: 2 I am grateful to Orbit for sending me an advanced copy of this book, because I specifically requested it with high hopes and confidence in their publishing selections. With that said, I was thoroughly shocked and disappointed. This is another one of those instances where I have to say that I believe a book is objectively bad. Even when I dislike a book, I can usually find the good aspects of it in order to So disappointing... 1.2 stars Characters: 1 Setting: 1 World Building: 0 Plot: 2 Language: 2 I am grateful to Orbit for sending me an advanced copy of this book, because I specifically requested it with high hopes and confidence in their publishing selections. With that said, I was thoroughly shocked and disappointed. This is another one of those instances where I have to say that I believe a book is objectively bad. Even when I dislike a book, I can usually find the good aspects of it in order to highlight them along with my dislikes; however, not a single aspect of this book was handled well and I actually forced myself to finish it in order to write a clear and honest review. The language was awkward, I found problems down to the basic mechanics of sentence structure and was shocked because this is not the author's first book AND it's being traditionally published. There was no flow to the writing and the sentences were bogged down with (Scandinavian) names of places, titles, and people that were constantly being repeated with a total disregard for pronouns. The author also felt the need to do 90% exposition through pages of information dumping rather than showing us the events within the actual time-line of the story. The main character Sigourney is given this means to glean information form people (no specifics for spoiler reasons) and so all of the motivations of characters and events are simply told to us through her thinking of them.... that's just boring to read! Let's talk about the world building... non-existant. Yes the world has some sort of magic, there is some religion of sorts, there are gods maybe... and that's it. That's all we know and that is not me exaggerating, nothing was explored so we know nothing about how anything works. The setting... this is supposed to be Caribbean inspired, which is one of the things that drew me in as a person who is from the Caribbean. Basically, there are islands, where dark people are slaves and light people rule, some of the islands have sugar plantations and eveyone drinks sugar cane wine, and they grow mango, guava, and sugar apple trees (yes I named these three trees specifically, because the existence of these three trees was mentioned every chance the author got). That's it. To add to the ambiance the author sprinkled scenes of pure brutality everywhere. Scenes that had nothing to do with the plot, or character development, and weren't even part of the timeline of the story were described in detail seemingly for shock value. This even extended to random casual thoughts from our MC (view spoiler)[How many times does one need to have the main character casually think "I could have him beated/whipped/flogged/hung for this" as a response to anything? (hide spoiler)] Characters. This was probably the worst offense of this book. There was only one character that was even remotely developed and that was Sigourney, and even that was not done well. She was inconsistent throughout the entire story; her motivations didn't match up to her actions, her existence was at odds with the world, and there was nothing interesting or intriguing about her. I think there was an attempt to make her morally gray, but she just seemed nonsensical. The other characters were all reduced to whatever singular opinion they had of Sigourney (they hate her and imagine horrible things whenever they look at her) and that's it. We were treated to the long list of names of characters, only to have them all be completely interchangeable. Lastly the plot. This was just so sad. The main character experiences something at the beginning of the book and says she wants revenge. She proceeds to seek power to that end, but along the way does nothing that leans towards seeking that revenge. (view spoiler)[I repeat. SHE NEVER ACTUALLY EVEN ATTEMPTS TO GET REVENGE ON ANYONE for the entire book (hide spoiler)] Then there's what is supposed to be a plot-twist/big reveal within the last 50 pages, and the book ends. Lot's of things happened in this story, but they were all poorly introduced and disjointed and none of them were actually a part of any progressive plot. This plot idea was not enough for a whole book. Final thoughts? I think the diversity and uncommon setting in this book and the background of the author may have been a driving force for this one. I hate to say it, but the quality of the writing here definitely suggests that. I don't recommend it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

    I read another book by Kacen Callender earlier this year and was really impressed with the depth of their writing. Looking forward to reading this book because I'm all for non-Western fantasy novels-- especially ones with morally grey characters and Tough Subjects. Also, it's on sale today for $1.99!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kacen Callender

    Thanks for visiting the GR page of QUEEN OF THE CONQUERED! I'm incredibly proud of this book for its unique look at a badass yet morally gray main character and for its "brutal yet beautiful" Caribbean-inspired setting. I love this book, but don't take just my word for it! QUEEN OF THE CONQUERED has two starred reviews, one from Kirkus and another from Library Journal, and it also has a plethora of amazing quotes from fellow authors: "A brilliant analysis of power and privilege set against an Thanks for visiting the GR page of QUEEN OF THE CONQUERED! I'm incredibly proud of this book for its unique look at a badass yet morally gray main character and for its "brutal yet beautiful" Caribbean-inspired setting. I love this book, but don't take just my word for it! QUEEN OF THE CONQUERED has two starred reviews, one from Kirkus and another from Library Journal, and it also has a plethora of amazing quotes from fellow authors: "A brilliant analysis of power and privilege set against an alternately beautiful and brutal background, you will root for Sigourney even as you question both her actions and motives. Searing and painful, Kacen Callender has managed to create a book that will stick with you long after the last page."―Justina Ireland, New York Times bestselling author of Dread Nation "Callender's heart-wrenching work is a story that refuses easy answers, trope saviors, or all-is-well endings. Lofty as it seems, if you imagine Hamlet and Agatha Christie's Ten Little Soldiers fused in a narrative that finds its soul from the pain of our cruelest histories, you'll have captured a piece of the powerful fantasy Callender has wrought in Queen of the Conquered."―Evan Winter, author of The Rage of Dragons "Kacen Callender depicts colonialism, rage and the terrible price of power with haunting, unflinching eloquence. Queen of the Conquered is a heart-stopping masterpiece."―Tasha Suri, author of Empire of Sand "A fascinating exploration of how power corrupts and drives a person toward self-betrayal."―Kirkus (starred review) "An ambitious, courageous, and unflinching novel that uncovers the rotten core of our colonial heritage and yet also celebrates the fierce resistance and heroic endurance of the most abused and exploited."―Kate Elliott, author of Black Wolves "Callender's first adult novel draws race relations, conquest, magic, and politics into an imaginative, layered story that will keep readers twisting until the end. The author's personal experience growing up in St. Thomas lends to the rich setting and postcolonial themes."―Library Journal (starred review) "An utterly compelling look at slavery, power, and complicity. Uncomfortable, heart rending, and utterly necessary."―Aliette de Bodard, Nebula Award-winning author "From the very first paragraph, Callender's adult debut stuns. A complex and furious examination of colonialism, Queen of the Conquered is a storm of a novel as epic as Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo. I've been looking for this book half my life."―Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Beasts Made Wild "Gripping and emotionally compelling; a stunning novel about power, privilege, and survival in a world where you must fight even after everything has been taken from you. If you can only read one book this year, make it Queen of the Conquered."―K. S. Villoso, author of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro "Queen of the Conquered is intricate, powerful, and brilliant, with vivid worldbuilding, compellingly flawed characters, and a plot full of exciting action and creepy twists!"―Melissa Caruso, author of The Tethered Mage

  11. 4 out of 5

    Allison Thwaites

    Big thanks to Paola Crespo at Orbit Books for sending me a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. Earlier this year I said wasn't going to read anymore slavery books because I am tired of the sufferation. Lies, all lies. I will read slavery books if they are written like this. The colonisers are the villains and I'm not being asked to feel sorry for them or try and understand them? Yes please. This was such a compelling story, one where I was absorbed right from the beginning Big thanks to Paola Crespo at Orbit Books for sending me a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. Earlier this year I said wasn't going to read anymore slavery books because I am tired of the sufferation. Lies, all lies. I will read slavery books if they are written like this. The colonisers are the villains and I'm not being asked to feel sorry for them or try and understand them? Yes please. This was such a compelling story, one where I was absorbed right from the beginning which I would describe as a good, slow burn. This was like historical fiction meets fantasy meets murder mystery. When the murder mystery kicked in, I found it damn near impossible to put it down. The backstory, the reveal,the author had me right to the end. They laid out the plot perfectly. I'm still marveling at the ending, like damn, it was right there. What I Liked Just have to say I am happy there was no sappy love story. Amen. That's another thing I dislike in slavery books, the unrealistic, sappy love stories. No. The world that Kacen created was so familiar and foreign at the same time. Being from the Caribbean, they could have easily been writing about my island. From the names of the different islands, I was getting Dutch Caribbean vibes which was different. I usually read about former English Colonies. They took colonial island life and added magic. One thing I was hesitant about when I heard about this book was that it falls under Adult Fantasy, not a genre I usually pickup because I really don't do well with blood and gore. I thought to myself, how can that be avoided if the setting is the slavery era Caribbean? Well, it can't but I appreciated that the author didn't hide away from the violence and the atrocities of slavery, it was a realistic depiction but I never once felt uncomfortable or like gagging. Sigourney, bwoy. I truly don't know how to feel about her. She can't be classified as good or bad. She exists in this gray area as a heroine. I disagree with her actions but I understand them. She is for lack of a better word, a victim of her circumstances. Her guilt and self loathing coupled with her ambition and her being convinced that she is doing the right thing in the long run, for the greater good, all of this combined makes her a rather complex and dynamic character. I'm really looking forward to seeing her growth. Also, I thought her power/kraft was great medium through which to observe and learn about the other characters. Being able to really know their thoughts, their racism, their own abuse added to their story and in a sense meant that none of the characters in the book existed at a surface level. While I really enjoyed this book, I did have one critique. There were parts and passages that felt slightly redundant. The mention of Sigourney's skin and hair and the way she was treated as a result was mentioned a lot, like, a lot a lot. I'm not sure if the author realised that they were being repetitive of if they just really wanted to drive the point home. What a great start to a series, I'm excited for the next one and this one isn't even out yet. I saw on Twitter that Kacen was contemplating who they were going to kill off in the next one. Beg you Kacen, do, tek time wid mi nerves.

  12. 5 out of 5

    laurel [suspected bibliophile]

    Trigger Warning: Slavery, Murder, Graphic Torture, Rape As a child, Sigourney Rose's family was brutally murdered by the colonizers of her home islands. Now an adult, and as the only islander member of the ruling classes, Sigourney has vowed revenge on all who wronged her family. She's going to kill them all, and take the crown for herself. But on the island of Hans Lollik Helle, she becomes the target of a strange, mysterious magic—and the nobles start dying around her. This was such a hard book Trigger Warning: Slavery, Murder, Graphic Torture, Rape As a child, Sigourney Rose's family was brutally murdered by the colonizers of her home islands. Now an adult, and as the only islander member of the ruling classes, Sigourney has vowed revenge on all who wronged her family. She's going to kill them all, and take the crown for herself. But on the island of Hans Lollik Helle, she becomes the target of a strange, mysterious magic—and the nobles start dying around her. This was such a hard book to rate. I am far from qualified to talk about any of the various themes and nuances of this book, so please forgive my weak attempts to explain my feelings on this. On the one hand—brilliant, amazing world-building. It was brutal, it was fresh, it was nuanced. That plot twist! I have never read a Caribbean-inspired fantasy before that tackled colonialism and slavery, and it was brutal and eye-opening. Seriously—pay attention to those trigger warnings. This is not a delicate book that plays to delicate sensibilities. It goes there and it rubs your nose in the horrible reality of slavery and what actually happened (minus the magic parts). The world-building and the nuance was just brilliant. I can't stress that enough. The imagery of the islands and their beauty juxtaposed with the horrifying reality of the islander slaves was stark, as was the colonizing Fjerns who were patently out of place as colonizers and who hated the islands but depended upon the islands for their very existence and continued relevance. Better to be a big fish in a small pond than a nobody at home, right? On the other hand—the exposition. Holy guacamole the exposition. This book was literally nothing but tell, tell, tell with a dash of show involved (the showing shined in the descriptions, which were both horrible and gorgeous). Part of the problem was that the book exists entirely in angsty Sigourney's head, and since Sigourney is a telepath, in everyone else's heads too. Many conversations were started in dialogue and then transitioned into prose, being entirely relayed after-the-fact in a way that was disconnecting and just wanted me to scream. The other part of the problem was the repetition. So much of this book is repeated, from descriptions to motivations to themes to everything else. I was told about the history of the Rose family, the Lund family, everyone else and the descriptions of just about everything so many damn times...like it was the first time I was reading it. It made the pacing feel uneven and like it deserved better editing, because the talent is just fucking spilling off the page. My final complaint was the angst. Holy shit Sigourney angsted over everything under the damn sun. To how much everyone hated her. From the colonizers for her having dark skin and daring to be one of them. To the islanders who hated her for her freedom and her being one of the nobility and therefore part of the entire problem. To herself, for not being loved as her mother was and for looking into a mirror and seeing only herself reflected back, and seeing that reflection as something awful and horrible and wrong. She could look into people's minds, but saw only what she wanted to see. I understand the angst. I get it. I completely emphasize with it as well (although as a white person, I have not and will never experience racism). Sigourney was an amalgamation of her circumstances—in between both worlds, yet yearning to belong to the kongelig so fiercely, for the acceptance of the colonizers and the ruling elite because she's not like one of them,, and also fiercely wanting the love of her slaves and the people she was descended from, and wanting to be their queen and unite their worlds. Not, you know, to actually free the islanders, because that would be economically unfeasible, but to rule over them as one of their own. And also one of the kongelig. So the angst part of it was something that I loved, but also was incredibly frustrating because it turned Sigourney into a wet Hamlet, filled with indecision and overthinking and agonizing over everything (and especially Løren—seriously, just kill the dude, you murdered everyone else with impunity). Sigourney literally does nothing but think. Events happen around her. She's implicated. She has machinations and ambitions, and talks through them (and shares her ambitions with literally everyone, spilling her grand secret scheme within the first 30% of the book) and does some things but doesn't really follow through with anything?? She's not supposed to be a sympathetic main character (oh, faaaaaaar from it), but I mean if you're gonna be bad—be bad. Don't half ass that shit. I dunno. So with all my bitching, why the four stars? Honestly, this wavered in between a two and four star read. The smart thing to do would be rate it as three and continue one with my merry way, but that ending. The murders, the deaths of the kongelig, the absolute infighting among the nobles—and Sigourney's own focus on her people (the Fjerns) and the motivations of literally everyone on the island. The mystery of the king and the rebellions and who was behind everything. Omg that reveal was, in hindsight, so damn obvious, but, like Sigourney, I was oblivious to it. So: read this for the politicking, the unique world and well-crafted setting, the deconstruction of colonialism and slavery, for some interesting magic systems, and the dictionary definition of internalized systematic racism and vertical integration that is Sigourney Rose/Lund/Jannik. Avoid if endless angst and exposition aren't your thing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sabreena - Books and Prosecco

    Stars: Disclaimer: The amazing humans at Hachette Book Group Canada were kind enough to send me an arc of Queen of the Conquered in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions below are my own. “Burning fields, charred houses, slaughtered people. This is my legacy.” I am so sad. I wanted to love this book so much! But alas, I did not. I think the writing style was just not for me. It might be for you though! Queen of the Conquered is about Sigourney Rose, a woman whose family was Stars: ⭐️⭐️ Disclaimer: The amazing humans at Hachette Book Group Canada were kind enough to send me an arc of Queen of the Conquered in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions below are my own. “Burning fields, charred houses, slaughtered people. This is my legacy.” I am so sad. I wanted to love this book so much! But alas, I did not. I think the writing style was just not for me. It might be for you though! Queen of the Conquered is about Sigourney Rose, a woman whose family was murdered when she was young and who is now seeking revenge on the kongelig (the colonizers/”rulers” of the islands) who killed them. “I shared in their awe at these people who looked so much like us, and yet were so different – and only because they’d had the luck in being born somewhere that wasn’t our islands.” As I said, the writing style was not for me. It was extremely detailed, and we learn about people and their backstories every single time they pop up – even if it is not important to the current story. It was hard to become invested in people because I didn’t know who would matter at the end. Learning that much about every single character is… a lot. Because of that detail, I never really became invested in our main character. I also didn’t really like her and her actions had me SO confused. For much of the book, she talks about her plan to get revenge on the kongelig who enslaved her people; the same people who murdered her family. She tells us time and time again that she will have her revenge… but she also has slaves? And she won’t free them? And she has them kill other slaves?! “You should have patience, yes – but not to the point that you miss your opportunity.” I know the point was that she had to pretend to fit in with the kongelig, but it didn’t work for me. The end of the book when it comes to our MC also did not work for me. I won’t say what happens, but I was not pleased to say the least. The one thing I did like about this book was the ending when it comes to everyone else. I thought that story line had so much more potential. It’s like we were seeing the story through the wrong eyes (hopefully, that makes sense when you read it!). The magic system in this world was not really fully explained, but I kind of accepted it as it was. The abilities that people have are called kraft, but there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to who has abilities versus who doesn’t. Sigourney’s kraft allows her to read and manipulate people’s minds and memories – which had me saying, “Why didn’t you use this to your advantage and get your revenge?!” a lot. Other kraft’s include being able to control the dead, being able to kill someone with just a thought, being connected to a sibling, and a whole lot else. I assume there is no limit to what kind of kraft people can have, but I’m not sure. “They have empathy for [her], and she was met with love and kindness. Maybe this is why she had so much love in her veins, while I’m filled with so much rage. I had the same fate as the girl, and yet, I wasn’t met with the same empathy. I wasn’t met with the same kindness.” ^ this quote struck me because it is true on so many levels. We treat people who do the exact same things differently based on race, gender, sexuality, religion, socioeconomic level, etc. But why? The many themes of the book were quite powerful. The main theme focuses on light-skinned colonizers enslaving dark-skinned people, but it also delved into themes of power/wealth, loss, abuse, and more. Like I said, I wanted so badly to adore this book, but it was not for me. Alas, I suppose they can’t all be, but if you read this, I truly hope you enjoy it. Trigger/content warning: abuse, torture, a LOT of murder/death, mentions of rape, loss of family/identity, slavery, war, and more. Note: All quotes above were taken from an advance reader’s edition of the book, and are subject to change in the final release. Queen of the Conquered releases on November 12, 2019!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kiki

    Last year, after reading White is for Witching, I wondered why there weren't more--or any--Caribbean authors setting gothic horror type fare in plantation houses. I had a need for a fantastical haunted take on these sites that strewn brochure pages, refashioned into luxury leisure venues, treasured for their local mahogany furniture and Georgian architecture--these sites on which our ancestors were enslaved, raped, tortured and slaughtered. Enter Queen of the Conquered. I am as eager as any other Last year, after reading White is for Witching, I wondered why there weren't more--or any--Caribbean authors setting gothic horror type fare in plantation houses. I had a need for a fantastical haunted take on these sites that strewn brochure pages, refashioned into luxury leisure venues, treasured for their local mahogany furniture and Georgian architecture--these sites on which our ancestors were enslaved, raped, tortured and slaughtered. Enter Queen of the Conquered. I am as eager as any other black reader for shining heroes and heroines who can be complicated but are, ultimately, admirable; for propulsive, heart pumping action plots; for hard won triumphs. But nothing captures my heart like an ambitious author who chooses a riskier narrative and trusts us (for the most part) to follow them 'till the end. Sigourney is not a shining heroine. It was a risk to tell her story as a first person narrative and give her a magical power in which her ability to tell other stories to us is in itself often an act of abuse. She makes unforgivable mistakes and yet one can understand exactly how and why she did. Indeed, living in a black majority country it is easy to find those like her: the privileged, for whom the hot coal dance to seek acceptance from (whom they see as) their high coloured betters is more real than any notion of solidarity with those left behind. Despite whatever impression the synopsis creates, or assumptions one may carry into the book (like I did), this is not primarily a pump fist tale of rebellion. It is the focused spiral of a wanna be heroine, addicted to power, sustained by self-delusion, who fights against herself to see her earnest desire to avenge her family and do right by her people realised. My one major issue in the story is that this is yet another POC writer that does not do right by indigenous peoples. As this alternate historical fantasy that is obviously set in a colonised Caribbean tells it, the people of African descent existed in the islands from they rose out of the water. I tried my best to fit some indigenous identity into the islanders' culture as it is presented here but had to give up. It makes no sense to complain when white authors erase us from imagined pasts, presents, and futures if we are going to do the same to the indigenous peoples who did and continue to exist on these islands. This is only a preliminary review. I could not let the day end without adding my voice to urge others to read this novel. It deserves more readers. It deserves to be praised, panned, fought over, critiqued, pulled apart and put together again, cried over, thrown on the bed, held close, and take that position on the shelf. Paola Crespo at Orbits Books gifted me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I'll be getting the finished copy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    I actually finished Queen of the Conquered over a week ago, but it’s taken me some time to wrap my head around it and find my entry point into a review. The first half of the book is an absolutely amazing work of colonial-inspired epic fantasy that hooked me in the first chapter and absolutely refused to let me go until I read just one more page. The setting was so original and so vivid, the characters so complex, and the culture-building exquisite. Unlike some reviewers, I would hesitate to say I actually finished Queen of the Conquered over a week ago, but it’s taken me some time to wrap my head around it and find my entry point into a review. The first half of the book is an absolutely amazing work of colonial-inspired epic fantasy that hooked me in the first chapter and absolutely refused to let me go until I read just one more page. The setting was so original and so vivid, the characters so complex, and the culture-building exquisite. Unlike some reviewers, I would hesitate to say this is an epic fantasy about racism, but it is one where racism – not religion, not nationalism, not class – is the driving factor. Kacen Callender not only made me appreciate that issue in a way, perhaps, I had not previously, but they also made me feel it, to empathize with the treatment of the plantation slaves (or rebels, as the case may be). My problem is that, once we get to the island and the novelty wears off, the book’s flaws begin to show. It’s an awkwardly paced book, one with long lulls between any significant developments, and one that never delivers on its early promise of revenge. It’s also a book that is marred by far too much exposition, much of which is the fault of Sigourney’s ability to read and influence minds. Time and time again the story is halted so that she can digress for pages at a time about an issue or a backstory that, while relevant and even of interest, is just poorly presented. The second half of the book is also where the uneven nature of the world-building begins to show. While issues of race and class are well-developed, we know very little of the geography, the system of magic, or the gods who keep being mentioned. What started as an intimate island fantasy becomes a claustrophobic sort of locked-room mystery. I took far too long to read through the second half, and put it down in frustration more than once. My biggest issue with the book, however, is that I didn’t care for Sigourney at all. I understood – or thought I understood – her motivations, but her methods left a lot to be desired, and her inability/unwillingness to act on her desire for revenge left the book feeling sort of hollow. In the end, I guess I admired Queen of the Conquered more for what it represents than I enjoyed it for what it was. I have no regrets for having invested the time to read it, and I would recommend it to anybody interested in an epic fantasy with a diverse setting and themes, but with the caveat that not all stories end the way we wish. https://femledfantasy.home.blog/2019/...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sh3lly

    $2.99 on US Kindle, December 17, 2019

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jashana

    Got about 50% of the way through before dnf-ing. I wasn't hating this, but I wasn't having a great time reading it either. The amount of exposition was a bit much for my personal taste. And the repetition of our MC thinking about how everyone hated her, why they hated her, how she felt about them hating her, etc... it just wasn't working for me. It felt like I was being beaten over the head with the theme of the book. The world-building was also a bit jumbled for me. I'd categorize this as Got about 50% of the way through before dnf-ing. I wasn't hating this, but I wasn't having a great time reading it either. The amount of exposition was a bit much for my personal taste. And the repetition of our MC thinking about how everyone hated her, why they hated her, how she felt about them hating her, etc... it just wasn't working for me. It felt like I was being beaten over the head with the theme of the book. The world-building was also a bit jumbled for me. I'd categorize this as "light" fantasy since it's a made-up world, but not all that far off from our own, and the magic isn't super complex or heavy. But for being a light fantasy, I don't know why the world was so confusing/jarring. All of the island names and family names and made-up names for "lord" and "lady" (essentially) but without real explanations... for the first few chapters I had NO idea what "eskirinde" (sp? I don't have the book in front of me) was or why it mattered that Sigourney was one. And then the "konelig" which is basically just "nobility" -- also had no idea what that was referring to for a few chapters. I thought maybe it was some magical community separate from the families on the island. I truly wanted to love this! But alas, I wasn't having a good time and I was honestly a bit bored so... dnf it is.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Wow. Where to begin? On the off chance you've read Gideon the Ninth, you'll find this very similar, in that you get a group of nobles gathered in an isolated location who fight to the death to see who will inherit the crown. Just replace necromancers with psychics. Otherwise, picture Game of Thrones, but everyone's trapped on the Iron Islands and has limited armies. Technically this book is fantasy, as it takes place in an imaginary country, and has magic. But really, this book very much reads Wow. Where to begin? On the off chance you've read Gideon the Ninth, you'll find this very similar, in that you get a group of nobles gathered in an isolated location who fight to the death to see who will inherit the crown. Just replace necromancers with psychics. Otherwise, picture Game of Thrones, but everyone's trapped on the Iron Islands and has limited armies. Technically this book is fantasy, as it takes place in an imaginary country, and has magic. But really, this book very much reads like historical fiction. The imaginary country is based on the Caribbean, the imaginary conquerors are insert any colonial Europeans (but pictured as Norse in this book) and the magic is more like being psychic than being a witch. This book is very much for historical fiction readers as much as fantasy readers. The quality of the writing is excellent, the moral greys are deeply examined without getting philosophical, and the setting is breathtaking and unique.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard

    oh HELLLLLLLL yas to that cover

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    *4.75 Wow. What a truly brilliant examination of power, privilege, rights and wrongs... I highly recommend this one! Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! 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, *4.75 Wow. What a truly brilliant examination of power, privilege, rights and wrongs... I highly recommend this one! Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! 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!).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Janday

    Cinematic as h*ck. I read an early unedited manuscript that I obtained as an employee of Hachette Book Group. Full review closer to pub date.

  22. 5 out of 5

    USOM

    Queen of the Conquered was more like a 3.5 read for me. While I absolutely loved the subject matter of this book, an #ownvoices fantasy inspired by the Dutch colonialization of the Carribean, Queen of the Conquered was difficult for me to get through. Queen of the Conquered is a story about Sigourney, a native Islander who schemes her way, partly using her magical kraft, into the ruling colonizers. Because of this, she partakes in the enslavement of her own people which is one of the central Queen of the Conquered was more like a 3.5 read for me. While I absolutely loved the subject matter of this book, an #ownvoices fantasy inspired by the Dutch colonialization of the Carribean, Queen of the Conquered was difficult for me to get through. Queen of the Conquered is a story about Sigourney, a native Islander who schemes her way, partly using her magical kraft, into the ruling colonizers. Because of this, she partakes in the enslavement of her own people which is one of the central conflicts of the book. Driven by her revenge, how can Sigourney rationalize her own actions given what she chooses to do for vengeance. Sigourney is seen as a traitor by the islanders and looked down upon from the ruling elite. Queen of the Conquered is a dense novel. There is so much more telling than showing and much less dialogue than the other books I've been reading recently. Because of that, Queen of the Conquered felt difficult to wade through. We were told often what Sigourney was feeling, but it lacked the emotional pull to either endear Sigourney to us, but also to make me understand Sigourney.

  23. 5 out of 5

    shri (sunandchai)

    Full review on my blog! Queen of the Conquered was one of my highly anticipated reads since the beginning of 2019. A book about getting revenge on colonizers? Oh, count me in! However, while I loved it like I hoped I would, it turned out to be a very different story than what I was expecting. Yes, this is a revenge story, but it isn’t until the very end of the book that we find out it is not Sigourney’s revenge story at all. Admittedly, I did start to resent the narrative halfway through–I Full review on my blog! Queen of the Conquered was one of my highly anticipated reads since the beginning of 2019. A book about getting revenge on colonizers? Oh, count me in! However, while I loved it like I hoped I would, it turned out to be a very different story than what I was expecting. Yes, this is a revenge story, but it isn’t until the very end of the book that we find out it is not Sigourney’s revenge story at all. Admittedly, I did start to resent the narrative halfway through–I hated having to read through Sigourney’s political games with the elite slaveowning families of her island nation because it brought out the worst in her. And I’d find myself thinking how I wanted Sigourney to succeed in her revenge, but I hated the steps Sigourney had to take to get there. That being said, the climax and resolution of the book blew me away, and any doubts I had about the story’s integrity was immediately gone. Queen of the Conquered is a blissfully overwhelming and escalated read from start to finish, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Berith

    If I could give it a 100 stars I would. This was brutal, smart, raw, and amazing. I loved it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Macey

    Eh. This book drew me in, but the ending twist was a let down. Wouldn't recommend it. Plus, it has some adult themes I wasn't very okay with.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah (A French Girl)

    So, I'm currently reading this book. I've see a few people mention that the writing is awkward. After a page, I can confirm that yes, the writing is kinda awkward. The sentences are bloated and sprinkled with adjective that don't need to be there and strange construction.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lauren James (storied.adventures)

    Full review on my blog, Storied Adventures *I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review* Likes: The world, the magic, the story itself, the ending. Dislikes: The word 'Hate' is used every other page. I get it. They hate the MC the MC hates them. It was very repetitive. I did not like Sigourney at all. She acted like she was the good guy because she is an islander and she's a better slave master than the pale skinned Fjern and she feels guilty when she KILLS her own Full review on my blog, Storied Adventures *I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review* Likes: The world, the magic, the story itself, the ending. Dislikes: The word 'Hate' is used every other page. I get it. They hate the MC the MC hates them. It was very repetitive. I did not like Sigourney at all. She acted like she was the good guy because she is an islander and she's a better slave master than the pale skinned Fjern and she feels guilty when she KILLS her own people. I don't know why people are saying she's in a grey area. She's not. She's just as bad as the Fjern. I did not root for her. I rooted for the islanders but not her. And she used her kraft (she can mind read and control people) in disgusting ways sometimes. Plus, there was an innocent Fjern but she still was like, "Oh well, your're Fjern so you still have to die."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christine Sandquist (eriophora)

    This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks. Thank you to Orbit for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Queen of the Conquered is a fearless new addition to the SFF world, tackling issues such as salvery, colonialism, and the structures that perpetuate bigotry from within. Kacen Callender, formerly known as and published under Kheryn Callender, doesn’t flinch and holds no punches as he discusses these issues in a gritty, hands-on manner. He does not shy This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks. Thank you to Orbit for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Queen of the Conquered is a fearless new addition to the SFF world, tackling issues such as salvery, colonialism, and the structures that perpetuate bigotry from within. Kacen Callender, formerly known as and published under Kheryn Callender, doesn’t flinch and holds no punches as he discusses these issues in a gritty, hands-on manner. He does not shy away from the harsh brutality of slavery and the day-to-day life required for plantation-style economies. Slavery is often used as a backdrop within the SFF genre – while it may have some impact on the main character, the sheer dehumanization that accompanies it fails to come through. It may provide plot momentum or motivation for a set of characters, but rarely does an author allow it to truly permeate their work. Frequently, it also falls to a “white saviour” character to end the slavery. Kacen takes that trope and uses it to draw the reader in, making them see the world from a perspective that is both similar and foreign to their own… and then twists, pulling the rug out from below. Right from the start, it was clear that this would not be a kind or heartwarming book. If the cover deceived you into believing this would be a standard hero-centric fantasy novel, perhaps with some YA elements, you will quickly discover that this is not the book you believed. Within the first pages, Sigourney Rose’s family is executed before her eyes for the color of their skin and for threatening the power of the white men and women who rule the islands of Hans Lollik. At that moment, Sigourney swears an oath to her mother: she will become regent of the islands. She will be the snake in the orchard. She will turn them against one another, and she will destroy the Fjern from within. ‘My mother kissed my forehead with a smile when I cried, upset that the party would carry on as I was sent away to sleep, and while I lay awake in my bed of lace, huddled beneath my covers and shivering in the cool trade-winds breeze, I heard when the tinkling piano stopped and when the laughter turned to screams. I slipped out of bed and went to my balcony of stone to see the garden below, streaks of yellow light falling from the windows and across the grass where my mother’s guests were ushered to the rose mallow by the men with their drawn machetes. I saw my sisters crying, my brother struggling, my mother pleading as they were forced to their knees. A hand covered my eyes, but I heard the moment their tangled screams were swallowed by silence.’ The setting and characters were by far the most compelling aspects of this novel. To be quite frank, I have never encountered another SFF novel that discusses the reality of slavery with such uninhibited frankness – and if anyone reading this review has, I would dearly love it if you pointed me in that direction. Other books may discuss killings. They may discuss whippings, or uprises, or oppression. A slave may be killed for insubordination. However, I have yet to encounter another that truly immerses the reader into a world where the master class is waited on hand and foot with true, complete power over the slaves in their possession. I have yet to encounter another that captures the fear of immediate, unpredictable, and horrific retribution in response to even the smallest rebellions. When a slave attempts to run to the Northern countries in search of freedom, their family, their friends, and other members of the community are the ones who face death as punishment. Even if they were to succeed, they know they have doomed everyone they care for to an awful, painful death. ‘All the masters of the plantation had been killed. Herre Lund ended the uprising swiftly. Every slave on the plantation, whether they claimed innocence or not—whether they were children or not—was executed, their bodies staked and hung from trees so that the other slaves of this island could see.’ Even Sigourney herself is not immune to the race-based assumptions her culture makes; although she, too, is of black islander descent, she has been raised with at least a piece of the Fjern class’s privilege due to an accident of heritage that allowed her entry into the white echelons of Hans Lollik. Although she has sworn to overturn the Fjern, she nevertheless feels a need and desire to please and placate them. She frequently conforms to social pressures despite having no real incentive to do so. Sigourney kills slaves who exhibit kraft, a form of mind-magic, even when it would be possible to release them with no repercussions. Even in the first few chapters, she quells a rebellion by torching the village to the ground rather than using empathy or diplomacy. She may have the dark skin of the islanders, but she becomes an unreliable and skewed narrator due to having grown up abroad and within the circles of the Fjern. Due to her elevated social status, Sigourney is the only islander who both has kraft and is allowed to live. The Fjern view is as a gift of the gods, and they believe it is blasphemous that someone of color could practice it. In Sigourney’s case, her kraft has manifested as an ability to not only read minds, but also to control them. She can become another person. She can influence their thinking, force their actions, or simply skim thoughts for new information. Others of the Fjern have different abilities; one is able to activate the pain receptors across someone’s body, another can instill fear in those near her, and so on and so forth. Generally speaking, Sigourney’s is considered to be the strongest kraft in all of Hans Lollik at this time given its immense flexibility. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her employ it as she sought to manipulate the Fjern and capture the regency of the islands. She wields it as a weapon, even as she finds herself filled with disgust for her own actions. ‘The rebel, machete shining, swings at Friedrich, but I focus on the slave, his rage and fear of death, yes, he wants to live more than anything else, and his mind becomes my mind as he slices his own gut, mouth open in surprise.’ The one aspect that did not work well for me in this book was the pacing. Around a third of the way through the novel, I was already able to see the final direction the book would take. Additionally, I found that it became a bit of a slog at times. It did ultimately serve its purpose in that it hammered home the perspective that Callender sought to present most strongly to the reader, but it becomes a bit much once you’ve already managed to grasp the book’s end game. I think the middle third of the novel will have a mixed impact, largely dependent on the individual reader. In some cases, I could see it having a strong impact that would otherwise be lost – to say more would verge too closely on spoilers, however. Suffice it to say that it’s a great subversion of expectations that perhaps could have been made more concise to maximize its impact. Despite that issue, the book as a whole was nevertheless deeply impressive for its deft handling of a piece of culture that most white people tend to shove beneath the rug. Queen of the Conquered forces an uncomfortable and often alarming perspective onto the reader, casting them in the role of both the oppressor and the oppressed with masterful control. Callender has added a work of incredible cultural depth and import to the SFF canon. Put simply, this is required reading for anyone with even a speck of interest in the complex social and racial issues that remain ingrained within our society. If you enjoyed this review, please consider reading others like it on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leah Rachel von Essen

    Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender features a lush, cinematic, violent world. In their adult fantasy debut, Callender writes of a Caribbean-inspired land where kongeligs (nobles) war, feud, and kill for power, ruling over enslaved islanders and quelling rebellions. Sigourney Rose is a black islander, but she is also a kongelig. When she was young, the leaders of this place killed her entire family: she hopes to take the throne using her kraft of mind reading and control, and get revenge Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender features a lush, cinematic, violent world. In their adult fantasy debut, Callender writes of a Caribbean-inspired land where kongeligs (nobles) war, feud, and kill for power, ruling over enslaved islanders and quelling rebellions. Sigourney Rose is a black islander, but she is also a kongelig. When she was young, the leaders of this place killed her entire family: she hopes to take the throne using her kraft of mind reading and control, and get revenge on them all. This book is compelling, visceral, and engaging. Sigourney’s power is a brilliant narrative device, as we dig constantly and richly into the backstories of others, seeing their deepest secrets and fears. The powers of the other leaders are fascinating as well, and the plot twists and turns around visions, dreams, violence, and politics. Occasionally, the book can get a little repetitive, and I think it could have been tightened up more while preserving Callender’s gorgeous, lush writing style. But even with that, I found myself flying through this book, rooting both for and against the morally gray heroine. Due to the powers and utter logical mind of Sigourney, the twists can be drawn out rather than sprung on the reader; I found this to be an advantage, something that makes this rather different from other books. It’s a slow, strange build, with layers of privilege and emotion. And, as with all great stories, it ended very, very well. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Queen of the Conquered comes out November 12 from Orbit.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Caroline 💞🐉

    DNF... the plot drags, the characters are bland and boring, and the world building is so intense i feel like it’s all we focus on.

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