cover image Queen of the Conquered

Queen of the Conquered

Kacen Callender. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-45493-3

Callender’s Caribbean-inspired first novel for adults—a mix of fantasy, history, mystery, and palace intrigue—struggles to overcome its sluggish first half. Hans Lollik is an island nation populated by the white, sea-faring Fjern and the enslaved black natives, who are known simply as islanders. As the only black landholder, Sigourney Lund is seen as a traitor to her people for owning slaves and enforcing the brutal laws of their colonizers. Few know that Sigourney is the survivor of a massacre. Having hidden behind an assumed name and eventually ascended to the role of matriarch of the Lunds, Sigourney is finally prepared to take revenge on the ruling class that plotted her family’s assassination and have held the Hans Lollik islanders in bondage for generations. But the cost of revenge is high, and Sigourney’s bid for power leads her afoul of her fellow islanders, as she continues to own people even as she claims to fight for their freedom. Callender (This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story) convincingly illustrates the corrupting influence of unchecked power and privilege, but Sigourney is too passive; even after she begins her revenge scheme, events mostly happen to her. The moral complexity of the story’s climax is satisfying, but readers will have to be very patient to get there. Agent: Beth Phelan, Gallt & Zacker. (Nov.)