Review of A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows

30646382A 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.

 

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Pyo says:

    I’m quite looking forward to Saffron’s part. This sort of “alternative” look at fantasy worlds can be super-interesting.

    And good point about the disappearing family member; that’s actually one of those issues that often bug me about “portal fantasies” – 5 seconds in and the heroine has forgotten all her friends and her family, somehow – or she has neither friends or family simply because it’s more convenient for the writer. Hm, actually, its a bit of a problem with family in fantasy novels in general – there’s probably more orphans in fantasy than anywhere else; wouldn’t want them attached to anything “normal” when going on a journey …

    As for the diversity issue and arguments about it; my personal attitude is just trying to roll with it. It’s always either too much or not enough of everything, and there’s always something people will complain about. Like, Baru Cormorant is (in my rarely humble opinion) hands down the best fantasy novel with a lesbian heroine, yet, oh, it’s written by a heterosexual(?) white male, and that apparently bothers some people. Just enjoy a nice book for once?

    1. Fantasy in particular has problems figuring out what to do with parents. So often they’re just dead or missing. I’d actually love more SFF books where the protagonist is a parent. I feel like I haven’t seen as much of that, especially with female characters.

      1. Pyo says:

        I won’t pretend my reading experience is necessary right about this, but I feel that authors largely stay away from mothers as protagonists. Even in romance novels, where I’d personally expect there to be just generally more “family” around, in whatever specific way, it’s kind of rare to have someone with a kid.

        If they appear in fantasy or scifi, they largely seem to do so as plot device. Maybe they get kidnapped and have to be gotten back (Broken Earth). Or they function as collateral so the mother is forced to do something (In the Time of the Sixth Sun). Maybe as measure of their domestic achievements, which can be super-annoying (like Honorverse, or Aeon 14).
        Very rarely I suppose for more … questionable reasons (like in Daughter of the Empire. She has a son for power politics).
        I’m not sure I can think of something where the kid is a genuine character in their own right, and the interaction between mother and child adds something significant to the story, mh.

      2. The only book like that I can think of off the top of my head is Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. It’s a zombie steampunk novel where the POV switches between a mother and a son.

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