“She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.”
Queen of Coin and Whispers is a sapphic YA fantasy novel by Helen Corcoran that focuses on political intrigue instead of magic. Corcoran has described Queen as “a low-fantasy novel with a historical basis,” because elements of the novel are inspired by Elizabethan spycraft, which is basically the coolest thing I’ve ever heard (check out this Twitter thread where she goes into more detail on her research).
Queen was one of my most anticipated Summer releases, and I was lucky enough to win a physical copy in a giveaway hosted by my friend Manon (aka @themaliciousreader). It took a few weeks to arrive via Book Depository, but once I started reading I devoured it in less than 48 hours and loved every minute of it!
Queen follows two leads alternating between their perspectives:
- Lia is the newly ascended queen of a struggling kingdom. The throne she inherited has become mired in corruption, and she vows to right the wrongs of her predecessors and be the ruler her people deserve.
- Xania is a member of the lower court who spends her days working in the royal treasury, biding her time until the opportunity arises to avenge her father’s death (which was, Xania suspects, actually a murder).
The paths of these two girls would normally not cross, but they find themselves working together (and eventually, developing feelings for one another) when their mutual friend, Matthias, recommends that Xania become Lia’s spymaster – a highly important, secretive, and dangerous position known as Master of Whispers.
I found myself totally immersed and invested in this world and the characters that inhabit it. Corcoran has developed an incredibly well thought out system of government, which I honestly found to be more interesting than many magic systems in high fantasy novels.
And we haven’t even truly discussed the romance yet! I absolutely loved Lia & Xania together, and I found myself squealing like a schoolgirl when Lia made the first move, flirting by loaning Xania a lesbian romance novel. Queen was a relatively slow burn, but not so slow that the characters don’t get together til the very end, which I appreciated.
My only real gripe is that Queen felt like it should have been a New Adult book. It didn’t click with me how young the two leads were until the scene on Xania’s eighteenth birthday, and it was honestly sort of jarring. I know the point is that Lia and Xania are young women whom people underestimate, but that sentiment would still have remained had they been in the early twenties instead. Especially because it seems like Xania had had her job in the treasury for several years at the start of the book, which would imply she’d started at 15-16?
Anyway, all in all Queen of Coin and Whispers was an absolute joy to read, and while the ending and epilogue were more than sufficient, I found myself not ready to part with Lia & Xania. Luckily, Helen Corcoran wasn’t ready to part with them either and has released a set of four, free prequel stories which you can find here! I’ve been saving them to use as a special treat, but I have no doubt they’ll be just as enjoyable as the novel!
When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.
Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each other, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?
In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other…
Queen of Coin and Whispers At A Glance
Genre: YA, Fantasy of Manners (with prominent f/f romance subplot)
Themes/Tropes: Queer Royals, Political Intrigue, Rich Girl/Poor Girl (sort of)
LGBT Rep? Yes! Lesbian MC, with lesbian, bi, & gay side characters
Content Warnings (CWs): Murder/Violence, instance of psychological abuse (might be forgetting some, I forgot to jot them down because I was so engrossed in the story, sorry!)