A Curse of Queens is the first book in the continuation of Amanda Bouchet’s Kingmaker Chronicles series, taking place after the events of the original trilogy. The first trilogy is a complete, self-contained story, but the seeds and possibility for follow-on books were definitely planted both from the perspective of burgeoning relationships and the sweeping world-building that was necessary for a tale of such epic proportions. The structure of A Curse of Queens shifts from the first trilogy, which focuses on Cat’s epic quest and a single-relationship arc across three books to a more traditional dual-POV focus on a single couple; this novel tells the story of Flynn and Jocasta, one of the couples set up to have their own story during the first trilogy. And while I was happy to read Flynn and Jocasta’s story, and I thought that the book was another fun installment in the Kingmaker Chronicles world, I was left wanting more in a couple of areas. I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 04/10/2022
STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶
The queen has been cursed, and no one knows who’s behind the plot to threaten the realm’s fragile peace. Desperate to help, Jocasta hatches a plan to find Circe’s Garden, a fabled island where she hopes to discover an antidote. But she can’t do it alone. She needs the strong arm and unflinching bravery of the warrior she’s loved since childhood—her brother’s right-hand-man and captain of the guard, Flynn of Sinta.
Together they can do the impossible. Yet with treachery brewing on Mount Olympus, one thing is clear: Thalyria and its new royals are still pawns in an epic game of power—one that might end in a War of Gods.
There are a lot of things to love about this series, the most compelling of which is the world-building. Thalyria is a world steeped in ancient Greek culture and mythology, and in this particular book, we get an experience reminiscent of the journey and trials of Odysseus. As Flynn, Jocasta, and their friends travel to the island of Circe to retrieve a potion to reverse the effects of the elixir that has the new Queen Cat in stasis, they must go through several trials, many of which are taken right from the Odysessy – Scylla and Charybdis, the Lotus Eaters, Circe herself – but they also face the Gorgons and the Minotaur. It is jam-packed with fun adventures that are truly enjoyable, especially for those who are fans of Greek mythology!
With this book, you can tell that Bouchet is doing a lot of setup in order to continue the series in a more “traditional” Romance fashion – couples are starting to form (Carver and Bellanca, Kato and a mysterious blonde, Prometheus and Kaia) and the seeds are laid for another epic plot arc to provide the backbone for such a series. There is a “big bad” who has been orchestrating the events of the book to wage an Olympianomachy against Zeus and a portal room is discovered in which the other worlds – Attica, Atlantis, and the Underworld – can be reached. This book is very much a launching point to use the existing world-building for a continuing series.
In terms of Romance, A Curse of Queens has two main romance tropes: brothers-best-friend and second-chance-romance. Brothers-best-friend is always a win for me, but second-chance-romance is generally hit or miss. For me, that particular trope has to be done in a way that reestablishes significant conflict and tension such that there is something meaty to resolve. Unfortunately, that fell a little flat for me here. The couple shared a passionate kiss six years ago, and Flynn panicked due to unresolved trauma around the deaths of his family members, which caused both him and Jocasta to awkwardly pull away from one another. But they never truly stopped wanting each other, and from page one the reader knows they love one another. So, the only conflict here was for Flynn to overcome his fear of losing Jocasta and the two of them reestablishing their communication. For me, that was not enough conflict to make the romantic arc compelling.
The other part of the story that I struggled with was that although the relationship focus was on Jocasta and Flynn, the adventure itself focused on Cat. The characters all revered her and talked about her as if she was a goddess herself. And while I understand that she is meant to be the emobodiment of hope – Elpis – it did grate a little after a while. I would have liked to see the adventure focus more on transforming the main characters themselves and less on saving Cat – the quest felt too “outwardly” focused. Intertwining the beats and goals of the quest plot with the relationship plot in a Romance is always more satisfying, and I would have liked to see that here.
I don’t think you can read this book without having read the first trilogy. There is just too much world-building, character history, and plot points integral to this story that will simply leave the reader confused and frustrated. That being said, I do think the first trilogy is worthwhile, find the world-building compelling, and believe there is an audience for these fun, adventure-packed Romances! I’m not sure I will read on in this series. To be honest, I was always disappointed with the third and final book in the original trilogy, and this book left me feeling a lot of the same. I do enjoy Amanda Bouchet as an author though and will keep an eye out for any additional works.