Blog Archive

View My Stats
Thursday, May 26, 2022

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo (reviewed by V)

 


Official Author Website
Order Siren Queen over HERE
 
OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Nghi Vo is the author of the novels Siren Queen and The Chosen and the Beautiful, as well as the acclaimed novellas When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, a Locus and Ignyte Award finalist and the winner of the Crawford Award and the Hugo Award. Born in Illinois, she now lives on the shores of Lake Michigan. She believes in the ritual of lipstick, the power of stories, and the right to change your mind.
 


OFFICIAL BLURB: It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn't care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli's world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

 
FORMAT/INFO: Siren Queen is a 288 pages long standalone novel. Narration is in first person from the protagonist Luli Wei’s perspective. It was released May 10th, 2022 and is available in hardback, ebook, and audiobook via Tor Dot Com. The audiobook is narrated by Natalie Naudus.
 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Siren Queen is one of those books that drew me in because of the cover, and after I read the description, I knew I just had to read it. It is a historical fantasy novel set in 1930’s Hollywood but It is also so much more than that. This is a story about monsters and magic and the power that some people have and other people don’t. It is also a story about a young woman from a Chinese-American family pursuing her dreams in a world that doesn’t respect her as a person. Moreover, at its core, it is a story about what someone is willing to give up to get what they want, and how the price is always higher than it should be. 
 

Luli Wei is a girl who works in her family’s laundry in the Hungarian Hill neighborhood in Los Angeles. She happens upon work, doing bit parts in movies and falls in love with being on film. As she approaches her eighteenth birthday, she begins to realize that the man who got her those bit parts doesn’t quite have her best interest at heart. She goes to bargain with a veteran of the Hollywood scene, who tells her how to get her career going in exchange for the last 20 years of her life. Luli Wei begins her career stipulating that she will not play a maid, do funny voices, or play a fainting flower, but that she’d be fine playing a monster instead. She lands the role of the Siren, a villain in a highly successful series of movies, and discovers that dealing with the real monsters at the studio is more than she bargained for.
 

This is a book that readers are either going to love or hate. Siren Queen knows what it is and does it well, but it is very crucial to go into this book with the right expectations. Siren Queen is more of a love letter to atmosphere and thematic elements than a plot driven work, even though there is a plot guiding the story along. The beginning of the story is more methodical. Luli figures out that she enjoys acting, falls in love with it, and makes sacrifices to become a star. But once she steps onto the studio lot, her story becomes more about her and the reader reacting to the work culture and challenges set in front of her.
 

At the same time, we get to experience a glamorous world with a wild, fae-like undercurrent of magic that both nurtures and consumes everyone on set. The predatory studio heads are literal monsters. The flames that everyone gathers around on Friday nights are both literal campfires and forges for relationships and alliances to be cultivated in order to survive. The magic in this story is more about bringing the metaphors to life than being a tool for our hero to wield as she approaches her goal, which is either something that readers will love or want to DNF 40 pages in. For the ones who love it, this book nails the approach and is such a satisfying read.
 

Without going into spoilers, this book looks deeply at what it means to be a monster and how we often use the label of ‘monster’ as a way to put down people who are different from us. Luli Wei is Chinese-American, is not straight, and she has the audacity to refuse roles that are disrespectful to her culture. Even though these roles were often the only ones available to people of color and had the potential to be quite lucrative. For this reason, she is seen as arrogant and demanding. The only major roles left to her are monsters and villains. She will never be allowed to play the lead, but she can be their adversary. At the same time, the studio heads are taking advantage of aspiring talent and sacrificing some of them to keep the magic that powers the studio going.
 
Luli is able to take the mantle of ‘monster’ and build a successful career out of it, but her using the power her fame gives her makes the studio heads feel threatened and lash out. Sometimes she comes out ahead and sometimes she doesn’t, and in either situation standing up to the establishment comes at a great cost. The story feels a bit convoluted and non-linear because Luli is figuring things out as she goes, but that is also what makes this story feel so raw and powerful. There might have been a magic cheat code to getting into the studio, but building her career and playing a role she can be proud of both on and off the screen is a much more complicated endeavor.
 

CONCLUSION: I came for the premise, stayed for the gorgeous writing, and now I can’t get this book out of my head because I feel like I still have a lot to learn from it. This book has a flair for the thematic, and readers who love their magic and metaphors to be intertwined, are going to be absolutely broken by this beautiful novel. I rarely reread books, there just isn’t enough time, but I think I’m going to reread this one.

0 comments:

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Cardinal Black” by Robert McCammon!!!


Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Cyber Mage” by Saad Z. Hossain


Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Miss  Percy's” by Quenby Olson!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The True Bastards” by Jonathan French!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Rumble In Woodhollow” by Jonathan Pembroke!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Starless Crown” by James Rollins!!!
Order HERE