June 29, 2020

Book Review | Queen of Coin and Whispers (#gifted)

Queen of Coin and Whispers
Helen Corcoran
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UK Publisher | O'Brien Press
UK Release Date | June 2nd, 2020
Format | Paperback
Page Count | 464
RRP | £11.99
DISCLAIMER: I received this book from the publisher for free. All views and opinions remain my own. 
When Lia, an idealistic queen, falls for Xania, her new spymaster--who took the job to avenge her murdered father--they realise all isn't fair in love and treason.

Lia won't mourn her uncle: he's left her a bankrupt kingdom considered easy pickings by its neighbours. She's sworn to be a better ruler, but if she wants to push through her reforms, she needs to beat the Court at its own games. For years, Xania's been determined to uncover her father's murderer. She finally gets a chance when Lia gives her a choice: become her new spymaster, or take a one way trip to the executioner's axe. It's an easy decision.

When they fall for each other, their love complicates Lia's responsibilities and Xania's plans for vengeance. As they're drawn together amid royal suitors and new diplomats, they uncover treason that could not only end Lia's reign, but ruin their weakened country. They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other.

I have waited for longer than I thought it would be necessary for the YA industry to feed my insatiable desire for a book that centers on political intrigue and serve it with a side of queer romance. Thank you to The O'Brien Press for gifting me a copy.

Queen of Coin and Whispers is a duel perspective YA fantasy. First, we have Lia, the recently-crowned monarch who is determined to right the wrongs set by her Uncle that have lead to the kingdom to almost bankruptcy; and then we have Xania, a cynical, intelligent woman hell-bent on uncovering the truth behind her father's death and exact revenge. When a mutual close friend, Mathias, introduces Xania to Lia and suggests her for the role of the Queen's Whispers (spymaster). What we have here are two very different women, both with compelling with points-of-view, that works together to create two dynamic voices that I didn't struggle with who was who. 

As well as the two protagonists, the majority of the cast of characters are women, of all different backgrounds, in power. They were nuanced, each recognisable with their own set of trials and tribulations. It was a breath of fresh air to see!

I found the romance to be compelling, because these woman were both strong and capable people, for different reasons, and so became complimentary to each other's personalities without either one becoming lesser than to fit. I found it the gradual love to be realistic, staying well clear of that insta-romance trope that seems to be the bane of my existence in YA fantasy. 

And didn't I mention that Corcoran has incorporated so much on page queer rep? Lia and Xania are lesbian, and Xania is also demi. But then, there's also the supporting characters, who Corcoran so casually mentions significant others of the same sex, and it's accepted. There was no homophobia (accept the part where they would prefer Lia to marry a man to produce and heir)!

Now, onto my favourite part, the politicking. For once we see the title of Queen as a job, with it's own responsibilities. There are the usual murder and betrayals that fall to the forefront, but Corcoran manages to brilliantly show the cogs of the wheel that Lia and Xania must fit together in order to keep the queendom of Edar ticking and produce the changes and results Lia is determined to make. The discussion and meeting were never glossed over, making for a highly entertaining read, even when grain distribution was up for debate. 

I want to briefly mention the cover because I'm obsessed. Designed by Emma Byrne, this really evokes the rich tapestry of love, betrayal, and the delicate decadence that can be found in any corner of historical royal courts. It's so wonderfully simple and doesn't rely on overly complex graphics. I really hope to see more of Byrne's work in the future! 

Helen Corcoran's debut cements Irish YA fantasy as something that shouldn't be ignored. Queen of Coin and Whispers is here to say lesbian rights and is a must-read for anyone interested in the interworkings of statecraft.

HELEN CORCORAN grew up in Cork, Ireland, dreaming of scheming queens and dashing lady knights. After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, she worked as a bookseller for over a decade. She lives in Dublin, writing fantasy novels and haunting coffee shops in search of the perfect latte.
Helen can be found over on Twitter, or on her Website.

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