Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Please note in an exchange for an honest review, I received an advance reader copy (ARC) from NetGalley.
I never read or heard of the author Nghi Vo. I actually requested the book because description sounded interesting (a fantasy world around Hollywood). So when I began this book, I really had no expectations of what I was getting myself into.
The story follows a Chinese American girl who decided to become a movie star after watching Romeo and Juliet on the big screen. In this world, Hollywood is full of literal monsters and devils. Where you make blood deals in hopes that you can eventually become a star--literally.
Siren Queen is split in three acts and I personally found that beginning of it was the most interesting of the bunch. This book is definitely a character driven story so if you find yourself not liking the main character, you might struggle to finish this. For most of Act II and Act III, I found myself loosing interest in the story.
Luli's ambition was a great read at the beginning but once she earned her break out role in Siren Queen, the book felt apart for me. At some point it just felt like we were reading her going through the motions and I was just waiting for something to happen. And once something did, everything happened so fast that I quickly found myself at the end of book.
Honestly, I would have like this book better without the magic/fantasy. There were various times where the author would mention some sort of magic so abstractly that it left me confused no matter how many times I read it. I would find myself trying to figure out what they were referring to and this considerably put me off from finishing this book sooner. A good example of this where the changelings, the fires, and the hunts. Even now I wouldn't be able to explain to you what the hunts are for or referring to.
Siren Queen does introduce a diverse set of characters and I appreciate how it does not sugarcoat the obvious homophobia and racism that people would certainly experience in that era. It was nice to read how other minority actors are casted back then, how back then they would want things "exotic" but not too exotic.
Siren Queen gives an unique fantasy take on 1930s Hollywood. Given that the setting is Hollywood, you will get an insight (despite the magic) of how Old Hollywood was and if you're interested in that, you definitely will like the book in that sense.
Unfortunately, the fantasy of this book was what lost me. Somethings were explained so abstractly that it took me a long while, if at all, to understand what the author was trying to convey. Admittedly, the parts I found more interesting where the commentaries of how minority groups where casted back then which could have easily be done without the magic.
Given that this a very character driven book, I would steer clear if you are into plot driven books. While I don't mind character driven books, I found that at some point the book slowed down considerably where I couldn't even pin point what the character's motivation where at some point.
Do I recommend it? If you're really into Hollywoodesque and character driven books, give it a go. I wouldn't recommend this based on their magic system alone though.