Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender
Published: November 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.
Difficult, compelling, rage-filled, complex, vengeful, powerful… This was the first book I read in 2020, and I started with a bang.
This novel is full of unflinching rage and complexity on colonialism, power, and revenge. I am aware of my own privilege and the history of my race and the horrors and atrocities we committed, so this was a difficult pill to swallow but one I’m glad to have done.
Beautiful writing—haunting, even—and great world building inspired by the Danish control of the Virgin Islands. Sigourney’s character was a bit passive amidst all the action and uninterested in the mystery of who was killing off all the kongelig, but her rage and moral complexity was strong as hell. I found this to be a character-driven novel with lots of intricate political intrigue and background detail going on. I’m interested in Løren’s POV in the next book, and what will come as a result.
More than anything, diverse books are wonderful in sharing another’s view, and they also shed light on my disappointing lack of knowledge of the world. At least in American curriculum, the majority of our history lessons focus on white history, the successes of our power. We are not taught—unless we take an elective in college, and even then it’s likely white-centric—of the horrors and atrocities that having such power brought.
Callender handles these complexities so well in this novel—what would an oppressed person do if given that power, but is not respected by others in power or those who are also oppressed?—exploring the ambiguity of what it means to walk that fine line. The terrible things Sigourney sees, does, and hears about are truths of our history, and we must face them head on too.
This qualifies for my TBR & genre challenge!