I received this book via Author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.The Queen of Cursed Things by S.M. Gaither
Series: The Serpents and Kings Trilogy #1
Length: 484 pages
Reviewing eARC from Author
She’s the last member of a cursed and deadly clan.
He’s the crown prince with a dangerous secret.
Together, they’ll save the empire. Or destroy it.
Decades ago, the High King of Sundolia waged a war that vanquished the serpent clan and drove them out of the empire, reducing them to nothing more than legends spoken of in occasional frightened whispers.
But they did not leave peacefully. Their parting gift included curses that now rest within the empire’s soil, beneath the shade of its jungles, treading through the waves of its seas. Growing more and more dormant as the years pass under the shadow of that increasingly tyrannical high king.
Until Alaya—a girl with a hidden serpent mark who shouldn’t exist—accidentally wakes one of them up. Then another. And suddenly she finds herself near universally despised and feared, a scapegoat exiled from her adopted village and left with no choice but to seek the truth about her cursed bloodline. About her true home. About a power, stolen from the serpent goddess herself, that is supposedly resting in that home. It is the sort of power that could help her overthrow a king, expose the lies he’s told, and put a stop to his wars.
But the closer she gets to that power, the more complicated the truth becomes. The more dangerous her waking power seems. And the more she begins to wonder: Can you still be the hero if you were born a curse?
First can we all take just a moment to drool over that cover?! It’s stunning 😍 and y’all the story matches. The Queen of Cursed Things by S.M. Gaither is the first in a planned trilogy about a young woman with a deadly secret. This is high fantasy at its best, and if that’s your thing, then you don’t want to miss it!
Alaya is an orphan living in a small town on the outskirts of the kingdom. She has spent her life in hiding, hiding her soul mark which identifies her as a part of the Serpent clan. The Serpents are believed to be extinct, killed off by the current emperor and are considered dangerous. As a result, Alaya’s mother taught her a spell to hide her mark. Now at 17, she works in secret with a group of rebels trying to protect the outskirts from the mad emperor. When her mark is revealed though, she is taken to the palace and any that stood to protect her are too. There she learns about her mark, the magic she possesses, and the destiny she is meant to fulfill.
Alaya is easy to like and easy to empathize with. At every turn in her life, she has always made the choice that benefits others, even when she gets herself captured. Yet there is a prophecy surrounding her, one that says she is a curse. Her very existence will bring ruin. But how? Well she begins to realize this as her mark awakens curses laid in the land.
The crown prince is also harboring a secret about the emperor. His secret is much worse than Alaya’s and he wants her help to kill the emperor. The prince is an interesting character. He isn’t at all what I thought he’d be and surprises me at every turn of the page. Now whether or not I trust him is yet to be decided.
In addition to these two, there are two other main characters, Alaya’s childhood friends Kian and Sade. Sade is feisty, cunning, and never fails to surprise you. Kian is described by Alaya as gentle and soft to her own rough and hardened edges, and that’s a great description of him. Kian is the balancer between Alaya and Sade, but he is also home.
The plot is fast moving after you get past the first third of the book. I’ll warn you, it’s a slow start with lots of character names, descriptors and world-building thrown at you. However it is worth it in the end. The world building is fantastic, vivid and beautiful. I can’t wait to dive into book two and learn more about the kingdom these four are trying to save and Alaya’s role in it.
Overall I enjoyed this book. It’s a wonderful start to the series, and the world-building alone is enough to recommend it. The relationships among the characters are complex and grow throughout the book. I can’t wait to see where the author takes them throughout the series. If you enjoy high fantasy, I highly recommend it.