Book Review

Queen Among The Dead

Queen Among the Dead

  • Author: Lesley Livingston
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: January 17. 2023
  • Publisher: Zando Young Readers

Thank you to NetGalley, Zando Young Readers, and YA Books Central for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can find my review on YA Books Central here.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: violence, blood, death, grief, murder

A stunning Celtic YA fantasy adventure set in the ancient kingdom of Eire, inspired by the legend of the first true queen of Ireland, perfect for fans of Shelby Mahurin and Adrienne Young.

In the kingdom of Eire, banshees chill the air, and water-wights lurk in the rivers. But magic is outlawed by the king, and jealously hoarded by his Druid priests.

Neve is the youngest daughter of the king, and Ronan is a Druid’s apprentice-turned-thief, making a living by selling stolen spells. They should be enemies, but their shared hatred of the Druids—and a dark magic that has marked them both—makes them unlikely, if uneasy, allies.

When Eire is threatened by a power struggle, Neve must seize the chance to take her rightful place on her family’s throne, with the help of Ronan and the realm’s most dangerous outcasts. Their journey takes them to the outskirts of Eire where magic still runs free … and where an outlaw and a warrior princess might carve out a future with spells and swords.

Lesley Livingston vividly reimagines Irish legends and fairytales to craft a YA fantasy adventure that will captivate readers of Brigid Kemmerer and Tricia Levenseller.

While I’ve always found Druids and Celtic mythology to be fascinating, I never really learned much about it. Naturally, I was thrilled to get a copy of this book, and see a whole fantasy novel built around it, and hopefully learn more about these intriguing stories.

Throughout the book, it felt as though I was reading a cross between historical fiction and fantasy. The way the author incorporated a historical landmark that still exists as a central focus of the story made it feel more realistic. However, I found it difficult to keep track of all of the different terms, and frequently flipped back to the list in the beginning of the book that kept track of the different folk of Eire, although some of the terms weren’t defined, and I struggled to understand what some of them were. While the world-building was beautiful and vivid, I did wish that the magic system was explained better. The Druids were mysterious and unexplained, which I expected, but the way that the magic worked was never explained, and we never learn what the limits are or why some people are able to access magic while others can’t.

I loved Neve’s character. She’s the fierce female protagonist that is easy to identify with, for me at least. As a female who is expected to be quiet and demure and work behind the scenes, Neve doesn’t fit into the box that’s supposed to define her. She’s rowdy and unruly, and prefers to be out riding in her chariot, learning how to fight, whether it’s hand-to-hand combat, with a sword, her double headed axe, or with a bow and arrow. Neve is a warrior princess in a time when that is not socially acceptable, but she never tries to hide who she really is, and the people closest to her fully accept her for who she is. 

Ronan was orphaned in the unrest that swept through Eire when he was young. He apprenticed with the Druids, but when that didn’t work out for him, he left and makes his way through the world as a thief. When his path crosses with Neve’s, things don’t go well, and they don’t exactly hit it off well. When they meet up again in the future, their second meeting doesn’t go any better. However, they don’t quite fit into the “enemies” category. They’re forced to work together, and there’s something going on that connects them, so it’s more like an uneasy truce rather than enemies. 

It takes a long time for the underlying plot to actually appear, but once it does, I was sucked into the story. The book is fast-paced, and there’s a lot of action, right from the start. I found myself fully invested in the story rather quickly, despite the issues mentioned above. I did enjoy the story itself, and even though I predicted a few of the plot twists in advance, more than a few blindsided me and kept everything exciting. Overall, this was a good story set in a fresh setting that kept me intrigued and reading avidly straight until the end. 

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 17

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