Queen of the Conquered

Queen of the Conquered

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...

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Title:Queen of the Conquered
Author:Kacen Callender
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Queen of the Conquered Reviews

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Holly (Holly Hearts Books)
  • 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

    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

    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

    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.

    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:

    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!!!

  • Sabreena - Books and Prosecco

    The amazing humans at

    were kind enough to send me an arc of

    in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions below are my own.

    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!

    is about Sigourney Rose, a woman whose family was

    ⭐️⭐️

    The amazing humans at

    were kind enough to send me an arc of

    in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions below are my own.

    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!

    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.

    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?!

    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,

    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.

    ^ 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.

    abuse, torture, a LOT of murder/death, mentions of rape, loss of family/identity, slavery, war, and more.

  • Yanique Gillana

    So disappointing...

    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

    . Even when I dislike a book, I can usually find the good aspects of it in order to

    So disappointing...

    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

    . 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

    , 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

    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

    . 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

    , 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

    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

    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

    throughout the entire story;

    , 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.

    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

    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.

    .

  • 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!

  • Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard

    oh HELLLLLLLL yas to that cover

  • 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!

  • 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.

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