by Stacey Filak
Published on May 8, 2018 by Page Street
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
The Above and the Under have a tenuous truce that is shattered after the death of both their respective rulers. Gemma, the new queen of Under, must throw history aside and team up with Tollan, the heir to the Above throne, in order to take down a power that seeks to rule them all.
Their group of rebels is comprised of an assassin, a sex worker, and a palace servant from Above, and we follow their unique perspectives as they are forced to question previously held beliefs. But even with war looming, romance still grows. Challenging gender roles and the expectation that every prince must have a princess, Tollan discovers love with Elam—a young man, a sex worker, and one of Gemma’s closest friends.
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This book. I don’t even know how to describe the mess that was The Queen Underneath. I was so excited for this book and the synopsis was written like I was meant to read it, but wow did it not deliver.
For starters, I think calling this book YA is a pretty big stretch. I’m all for including darker and more graphic topics in YA but also — this wasn’t YA. Between the sexual content and other stuff (rape, murder, priests as sex workers, etc) it felt like NA and definitely think that’s how it should have been marketed. But that’s assuming this book should be promoted and I question that a bit.
The first few chapters were interesting. I get all the vibes of a prophetic quest-like story in this fantasy city. I was a fan, for sure. I like fantasy with a bit of grit and in that vein I could compare it to Nevernight, to a degree. But the world and overall plot couldn’t make up for the rushed mess that was this book. The author tried to condense what likely should have been a several hundred page book (based on the number of characters and subplots) in under 300. It clearly didn’t work. The pacing was all over the place and the emphasis of certain scenes was wrong. What turned into important plot points were given very little page time and vice versa so it was confusing to me too. What should I care about?
I certainly didn’t care about any of the characters. I didn’t feel their motivations come through the story, and with everything so smashed together I had no time to really invest in their success. They quickly become very one note and more focused on the romance business that was also a mess and not worth getting behind.
Sense a theme here?
This book needed time and more pages to really express the premise I could see beneath it all, which would have made for an interesting story, I think. As it stands, I wouldn’t recommend this at all and nearly DNFed it myself.