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.
**** Thank you to Page Street Publishing for the copy in exchange for an honest review****
Trigger Warnings: (Fairly Strong) Sexual Content, Sexual Assault, Miscarriage, Suicide, and Torture/Violence
I always hate when I have to write a negative review for a book especially when a book was sent to me for said review. But I like to give you guys, my readers, my honest opinion and my honest opinion about “The Queen Underneath” is that it is just…..awful. I don’t even know where to start with this one because there wasn’t a single redeeming quality, it’s all just a giant mess.
First of all I don’t think this actually qualifies as a YA book, it’s more NA than anything. There’s two pretty strong sexual scenes (although fairly brief) that occur within the first 50 pages of the book and they completely put me off because I was not expecting them at all! Completely came out of nowhere! I’m not a prude by any means but when I go into a book that’s being marketed as YA and there’s no hints of stronger sexual content at all and then BAM! I am attacked with it within 50 pages. Yeah, no thank you. And as mentioned in the Trigger Warnings above there is an instance of sexual assault in the book as well. You have been warned now, I know I sure would have liked to have been!
I feel like I don’t even know what this story is supposed to be about, the Queen of Under is murdered and so is the King of Above. So the characters set out to find the killers basically and then from there it’s a whole mess of like fifty other unrelated things happening. It’s like the author couldn’t make up their mind about what they wanted their book to be about. I was confused 100% of my time reading this book. It also didn’t help that the pacing was too fast, like 10 “important” things just happened in one sentence too fast. Then there were “twists” that made no sense and felt like they were only there for the sake of having some twists! It was one giant mess, a mess I tell you!
And as you can probably imagine the world building was just as much of a mess. I mean the story made zero sense so why would the world building? What and where exactly is the Above and Under? Because from the way it was described at times it made it seem like the Under were tunnels and actually UNDERNEATH something but yet they have pirates that go around ya know….sailing on seas. Explain! Then don’t even get me started on the fact that there were sex worker priests for whatever religion it is they practice, because literally nothing was ever explained! Plus how the hell does all of this magic work? Once again: Explain!
Also this was being marketed as a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” and oh boy hahahahahaa NO! How? Someone tell me how exactly this was supposed to be similar to “Sleeping Beauty” in any way! There were some vines at one point, okay, check. And the main character was asleep for a while I guess, check. Townspeople all fell into a magical slumber at some point, check. That’s it. That’s everything I can even remotely compare to the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty”. Talk about disappointing.
The characters. The. Characters. THE. FREAKING. CHARACTERS. I could have cared less about all of them, honestly, they had so much potential though. Characters in fantasy books always have so much potential! There was zero character growth or depth. Everyone was about as interesting as a wet mop (unless you happen to find wet mops interesting, in which case just substitute for something you find boring).
Gemma is your typical strong heroine that we seem to find an endless supply of in YA these days. She brought nothing new to the table though. And Tollan, the other MC, was shy and that’s about all I got out of him at all, he really had no personality whatsoever.
There was also a slew of secondary characters that liked to show up out of the blue for the purpose of moving the plot(or you know…not plot) forward and then vanish.
Annnnndddd the romances were just as bad as the plot and characters for me. At this point in the story I just wasn’t even surprised any more. One of the romances was insta-love to the max and had zero lead up, although the ONE good thing I have to say about it and this book in general was that it was a LGTBQ+ romance. Now I will discuss the other main couple but in order to really rant like I want to there will be spoilers:
The romance between Gemma, a MC, and the assassin character Devery was so, so bad. Devery was the one responsible for literally killing the woman she thought of as her mother and all was forgiven immediately. Like are you serious right now? It was that forgivable, huh? And if he loves you like he says then why in the hell would he do it! I don’t care what excuse he gave, people that love each other don’t go around killing your other loved ones! And yep, it was literally brushed aside like it never happened!
What I Loved:
- LGTBQ+ Romance
- Literally nothing else
What I Didn’t Love:
- Um, everything?
- Messy, confusing plot that made zero sense
- Twists that came out of nowhere
- Lack of world building with explanation
- Pretty much NOTHING is every explained actually….
- Nothing like a “Sleeping Beauty” retelling
- Trigger Warnings that were mentioned
- More NA than YA
- Characters were completely undeveloped and lacked depth
- And romances that were either completely unbelievable, full of insta-love, or had zero build up
I can’t say I’d recommend this one at all, not even to my worst enemy. I know how much work authors put into their books and I hate to give a book such a negative review but I honestly did not enjoy this one bit.