A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows. ★★★★
A Tyranny of Queens is the sequel to the portal fantasy novel, An Accident of Stars, and I’m happy to report that I liked it even more than the first book! If queer feminist fantasy sounds at all your thing, I suggest you start reading this series. This is a series that should really be read in order – A Tyranny of Queens picks up almost directly from where An Accident of Stars left off. If you haven’t read the first book, I doubt you’d be able to make sense of this one. Forewarning, this review may contain spoilers for the first book.
In Kena, Gwen is trying to sort things out in the absence of Leoden and figure out why he was imprisoning worldwalkers. Over in Veksh, Yena is trying to get the queens to actually do something about Kadeja, but the forces of bureaucracy and politics are against her. Meanwhile, Saffron is dealing with the readjustment to her own world, and it’s not going so well.
I think Saffron’s narrative is one of my favorite parts of A Tyranny of Queens. It probably ties in with why I loved Every Heart a Doorway so much. I’ve rarely read stories that address what it’s like to try and resume a “normal” life in our world after having been on a fantasy adventure. Most skip over it entirely or avoid lots of the difficulties by having no one (i.e. parents) know they were gone. Saffron doesn’t get such an easy treatment. Her parents and friends are treating her like she’s made of glass and at the same time don’t seem to accept that she may be different now. It’s painful and raw and honest. And as much sympathy as I feel for Saffron, I also feel bad for her parents and sister. If one of my family members disappeared for weeks on end I would be terrified. So as frustrated as Saffron is, I can totally understand some of her family’s reactions.
A Tyranny of Queens actually expands the POV cast beyond Saffron, Gwen, and Yena, and let me tell you, this book is so gloriously diverse. Practically everyone in this book is queer and most are POC as well. New characters include an autistic trans boy POV character (Naruet) and a genderfluid supporting character. Naruet managed to make himself one of my favorite characters in the series. He’s just sort of doing his own thing and as no idea about most of the events of last book.
I’ve been seeing some criticism of this series for how its diversity is a “checklist” because the identities aren’t being “explored.” I’m just so tired of this. Queer people have lives outside of being queer, and frankly I’d rather read a fun fantasy adventure than yet another angsty coming out story. Queer characters can exist without five different subplots about their identity, especially in a fantasy world that’s not heteronormative. Like, you know, when you read a book about a straight character and there’s not an entire subplot about them grappling with their heterosexual identity.
The world building of this series remains awesome. It starts to get into the multiple worlds aspect more, and it couldn’t be better! There’s just a hint of science fiction to it that makes for a really great genre combination.
In my review of the first book, I complained that Leoden felt one note. However, A Tyranny of Queens delves more into his character, with excellent results. He actually ended up being one of the most fascinating characters in the series.
A Tyranny of Queens ends the narrative arc established by An Accident of Stars. The ending is solid enough that it could be the end of a duology. But I think there’s going to be more books? I seriously hope so. I would love to read more with these worlds and characters. Regardless, I’ll be sure to read whatever Foz Meadows writes next.
I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.