Title: The Queen Underneath
Author: Stacey Filak
Genre: NA/YA Fantasy
Publication Date: March 8, 2018
My Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
The Above and the Under have a tenuous truce that is shattered after the death of both their respective rulers. Gemma, the new queen of Under, must throw history aside and team up with Tollan, the heir to the Above throne, in order to take down a power that seeks to rule them all.
Their group of rebels is comprised of an assassin, a sex worker, and a palace servant from Above, and we follow their unique perspectives as they are forced to question previously held beliefs. But even with war looming, romance still grows. Challenging gender roles and the expectation that every prince must have a princess, Tollan discovers love with Elam—a young man, a sex worker, and one of Gemma’s closest friends.
This definitely has its problems, but was still enjoyable overall. My initial knee jerk rating was 4 stars. After stewing on it for a little bit, I’m really flipping between a 4 star rating and a 3 star rating. I absolutely adored the characters. Like, this book has one of my favorite casts of all time. However, I feel like there was A LOT going on, and most of it ended up getting skimmed over due to the sheer volume of plot points going on in such a short book. It’s very, very fast paced, partly due to the length, and partly due to the fact that the story literally just flies by. I read this book in a few hours, in one sitting.
I do have to point out that this is NOT YA, in the same sense that ACOTAR is not YA. There is explicit sexual content and pretty gruesome violent imagery at times. I would recommend young teen readers steer clear. In all fairness, the back of the ARC does state 17+, but I just wanted to make a point of mentioning it.
On that note, trigger warning for violence, death, rape, miscarriage and its after effects, and suicide is briefly mentioned. Rape and miscarriage are shown on page, and there’s a conversation about the miscarriage that was a bit jarring for me, someone who has never been pregnant or miscarried.
With all of that said, there are some really great sex positive bits in this book, especially pertaining to women having control over their own sexuality without shame. The topic of sex workers comes up quite a lot, and they’re also treated with the same dignity. Characters who exhibit negative or judgmental behaviors towards other characters are promptly corrected. This same attitude translates to LGBT characters as well.
I quite liked this book, but I just wanted more. I wanted more backstory for everyone and everything, and there were a few point where I just wanted the story to slow down. With that said, the characters in this book really won me over in the end, so my rating is somewhere around a 3.75, and I’ll be using 4 stars on Goodreads and Amazon.