"The Queen of the Cicadas" Book Review
Written by Jennifer Turner
Published by Flame Tree Press
Written by V. Castro
2021, 224 pages, Fiction
Released on June 22nd, 2021
Let’s start off with the fact that this book would definitely be my top ten of the year list, if my lazy ass would ever get around to writing one. But as my dearly departed mother always said, “It’s the thought that always counts.”
The Queen of the Cicadas is absolutely amazing. A well-written story with perfect pacing and realistic characters that is a must-read for any horror fan.
The story introduces us to Belinda Alvarez who returns to her home state of Texas to attend a wedding. The location of the event is a farm which has its own macabre history. Belinda soon finds that her fate is intertwined with that of Milagros, a migrant farmworker who suffered a tragic death many decades before.
Belinda is probably one of the most realistic female characters that I have ever encountered in a horror novel. She’s messy, sarcastic, and is far from the picture-perfect protagonist that one usually encounters in these kinds of stories. She drinks a little too much and tries to find solace and distractions in one-night stands. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that someone found one of my old diaries and based the character off of me.
The plot slips back and forth between the now and the 1950s. I normally don’t like it when authors do back and forth time jumps because it can be so jarring for the reader and often feels like you are reading two different books instead of one, but author V. Castro weaves these two timelines together perfectly and there are no “Where the heck am I?” moments that I dislike so much.
The backstory of Milagros is one of the saddest plots I have ever read. This poor girl’s only crimes were to want a better life and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I felt a genuine grief over her passing which makes her evolution from victim to villain all the more satisfying.
This book is groundbreaking to me for two different reasons. One, the entire cast of characters are of Latin descent, which is a particular minority that is woefully overlooked in horror. Growing up in both Texas and California, our merry band of heroes come off as very authentic and reminiscent of the childhood friends that I grew up with.
The second is that they actually include an LGTBQ character without resorting to the tired “he’s fabulous/he’s angsty” attributes that often stereotype gay men in horror. Hector is the owner of the accursed farm and a firm believer in the otherworldly goings-on at his family abode. He provides the background of the ghost tale without coming off as too expository. He is a fun and enjoyable character who adds a lot of heart and soul to the tale.
I’ve always said that I am a sucker for a good ghost story and The Queen of the Cicadas is one of the best there is. It will definitely be on a less lazy writer’s best of ’21 list and is not to be missed.
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