Review: Curse of the Spector Queen

I LOVE historical fantasies, along the lines of The Diviners, and this one was so good! A gender-bent Indiana Jones set in the 1920’s? SIGN ME UP!


Curse of the Spector Queen by Jenny Elder Moke
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Pages: 352
Rating: starstarstarstar


Samantha Knox put away her childish fantasies of archaeological adventure the day her father didn’t return home from the Great War, retreating to the safety of the antique bookshop where she works. But when a mysterious package arrives with a damaged diary inside, Sam’s peaceful life is obliterated. Ruthless men intent on reclaiming the diary are after Sam, setting her and her best friend, along with her childhood crush, on a high-stakes adventure that lands them in the green hills outside Dublin, Ireland. Here they discover an ancient order with a dark purpose – to perform an occult ritual that will raise the Specter Queen, the Celtic goddess of vengeance and death, to bring about a war unlike any the world has ever seen. To stop them, Sam must solve a deviously complex cipher – one that will lead her on a treasure hunt to discover the ancient relic at the heart of the ritual: a bowl carved from the tree of life. Will she find the bowl and stop the curse of the Specter Queen, or will the ancient order bring about the end of the world?

Indiana Jones gets a refresh with this female-driven mystery adventure, set in the 1920s, full of ciphers, ancient relics, and heart-stopping action – the first in a brand-new series!

I started reading this book on May 12th, a few days before we were supposed to move. And well, I finished it on May 31st…

Yeah, it took me awhile to get through, but not for lack of trying! I loved this book from the get go and it only got better and better.

The way this story got started was a little slow, as we get introduced to Sam and her backstory. We have a short prologue talking about her love for mysteries and archeological adventures, until her father doesn’t return from war, leaving her and her mother to fend for themselves. When we’re first introduced to Sam, she’s very reclusive and serious. She thinks about the fun she had with the adventures set up by her friend’s father, but is uncomfortable spending time with them as she doesn’t want them to think she’s taking advantage of their kindness, especially since she works in their father’s store.

It’s only when a mysterious package with an old diary shows up that she gets the courage to find Bennett to ask him about it and finds herself back with Bennett and Joana. And when two mysterious monks destroy the antique bookstore and burn it down trying to find the diary, things get intense. Like, stealing a car to catch a train because something very strange is going on, intense.

I wasn’t a fan of Sam, personality wise, at first. But when we have our golden trio, her personality shines. Joana, our kleptomaniac, adventurous flapper girl is the charismatic girl who’s not afraid to do what needs to be done to get what she wants. Bennett, her scholarly brother, is the smart, responsible one with knowledge on history and ancient languages. Then we have Sam, the curious and determined hunter of clues and unafraid to get down and dirty to find the answers she’s looking for. All together, we have our treasure hunters and our main protagonists. And they fed off each other so well! On their own, they have their issues, but as a group, you can’t find a better trio.

While Bennett is kind of a hard ass at first, his character began to grow on me by the end. It’s clear why Sam has a crush on him, not only cause he’s attractive, but he’s a kind, caring person who wants to keep everyone safe and happy. Even if it means being the buzzkill and overprotective. He likes to take charge and wants everyone to listen to him to keep everyone in line and safe. Even if it comes across pretty poorly, especially at first. He’s kind of bossy.

And Sam is fine listening to him, because she agrees he just wants the best for everyone. But it was irritating having her follow his every whim. Poor Joana was screaming at a brick wall to get her to move sometimes. It wasn’t until she finally got a back bone and some confidence that Sam’s character fully opened up.

In terms of the plot, I loved the opening setting of rural Illinois, in the early 1920’s! We get to see a sprinkle of Chicago, explore the U.S.S. Olympic (sister ship of the Titanic), and see Dublin and the Irish countryside. This book has some beautiful imagery and even though it can quickly turn terrifying, I thought the scenery, the plot, and the main conflict of this story was so good!

And there are definitely some twists in here. Honestly, I didn’t even realize where this conflict was heading until it was revealed and I felt so stupid I didn’t see the signs right in front of me. The author takes great care in laying down the foundation so she can surprise you later on.

Sam, Joana, and Bennett’s exploration and attempt to stop the revival of the Spector Queen was such a good story. Add in the timeframe, 1920’s, the fantastical elements, and some great humor, and this book was a winner for me. I can’t wait to read more of this series and you should definitely pick up a copy today!

Happy book birthday, Curse of the Spector Queen! Here’s some links to stores you can purchase a copy from:

Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

If you like historical fantasy, check out The Diviners by Libba Bray or These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong!


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