My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 352 pages
Release date: 27 February 2018
Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.
When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.
“I may not have been born in the sea, but I was born to rule it.
I am the daughter of the siren queen.”
After Daughter of the Pirate King, I thought I pretty much knew what to expect from the sequel. More danger! More blood! More swashbuckling adventure! Yeah, Daughter of the Siren Queen is all of that. As a duology, the series averts the sequel fatigue that haunts so many middle instalments of trilogies, and delivers another grand, pulse-pounding story.
In all honesty, I’m less wowed than I was reading the first book, but that’s to no fault of the author. Daughter of the Pirate King was one of the first books I read after a long absence from YA, the few which made me realise how much the genre had changed since the days when Hush, Hush and Fallen seemed to be everywhere. It was a catalyst in rekindling my love for reading. Since then, I’ve picked up so many amazing books, many of which have similar themes and plot points (hello there, To Kill a Kingdom), Daughter of the Siren Queen doesn’t stand out like that to me anymore.
But. But. Tricia Levenseller’s second novel is still a whole lotta fun. And it’s not a clone of any other book: What you have here is a true pirate story, the likes of which Jack Sparrow would approve. I don’t mean historically accurate pirates, because you’re not going to get that in a YA romance–or most novels featuring pirates as heroes, for that matter–but rather the full Pirates of the Caribbean experience. The one sold to the mass audience’s imagination, that has kids dressing up as pirates and adults secretly fantasising themselves aboard the Black Pearl.
I can hear the theme song playing already. Go on, listen to it, just once. I promise it won’t get stuck in your head. (I should mention that in Daughter of the Siren Queen, promises are basically worthless. Case in point: Alosa’s
piece of shit wonderful daddy repeatedly promising he’ll never hit her again.)
Alright, there’s definitely a lot of shitty stuff in this book. From child abuse to cold-blooded torture to the maaaany deaths of supporting characters, Levenseller leaves us barely a moment of respite. There’s quite a lot of death, and not much time is spent dwelling on it, including deaths of Alosa’s often underdeveloped crew members. We don’t know them well enough to spare any more than a passing thought for their passing, and you get the sense that in this harsh world, tears would just be crying over spilt milk. One person’s heartbreak is another person’s Tuesday.
Still, I would have liked the deaths to mean more–I know it’s hard to imbue such a sprawling cast with individual personalities within 300 odd pages, but from experience, I’ve seen the deaths of very minor characters speak volumes. Tricia Levenseller is such a talented storyteller, I don’t believe for a second that she can’t do better.
The book has quite a few things to say about gendered preconceptions. I even want to say that the girl power was on point. Yes, that phrase itself is cheesy and heavily diluted, but in the case of Daughter of the Siren Queen I really just want to shrug and say “why not.” You’d expect some major female badassery from a crew of primarily women pirates, and that’s what you get. Especially revealing are the little moments which are ripped straight from real life with the genders reversed, things like catcalling. They come across as extremely uncomfortable, and that’s a good thing. They should do, no matter who are the instigators or the victims.
Alosa’s mother was the best part of the story. This was the reveal I didn’t know I needed–that‘s what we call a plot twist. I was already expecting Alosa’s infamous mother to be something other than the mindless seductress her father portrayed her as, because of genre expectations and also due to the fact that Kalligan is a pathological liar and all-round evil bastard. But I was not expecting what actually happened. In my head, it wasn’t even in the realm of possibility. You won’t want this one spoiled.
Oh, and it’s a cheeky bait-and-switch that Levenseller pulls at the start of the book. If you want to go in totally blind, skip this paragraph, but I would hardly consider this as a spoiler since it takes place in the literal first chapter. How it goes down: Vordan was the legitimately threatening main villain of the first book, and we were left on a massive cliffhanger regarding his next moves. Then boom, blink and he’s shredded like paper mâché in the first scene of the sequel. In retrospect, this anticlimax was quite the smart idea, because let’s be honest, nobody cares about Vordan. It’s Alosa, Riden, Kalligan and the Siren Queen we came here for.
Take a good long look at the first two. They’re about to become your new favourite power couple on the seven seas.