Reading Pile: Queen of the Sea GN
I love Dylan Meconis' work, so I was already expecting to enjoy Queen of the Sea. I absolutely love it though when you pick up a book and it's just beyond thoroughly engrossing. When I started it I was planning on just reading it in chunks as I started reading it late at night, and before I knew it I had passed the halfway mark of its incredibly dense 394 pages of story and I needed to force myself to put it down so that could get some actual sleep.
The story is a sort of alternate history that loosely mirrors the exile of Queen Elizabeth I by her half-sister, Queen Mary. The story is told through the eyes of a young girl named Margaret, an orphan who was left as a baby on a tiny island populated by nuns. The bulk of the framework of the story is an examination of what daily life was sort of like during the time period, and as we progress Margaret teaches us about the various Elysian sisters and servants and how the world and politics of the time would look like from their hidden home. That is until Queen Eleanor of Albion is banished to the island, upending their normal lives and everything Margaret knew of the world.
The front half of the book takes its time laying out the island and characters in a sort of storybook manner. It's a really well paced roll out of world building, and it deftly establishes the voice of our main character and how she views the world. It's a really great example of utilizing an overt but necessary exposition to guide a more nuanced approach to the characterization, and coupled with Meconis' beautiful watercolors it just heaps on the charm from the start.
There's plenty of political intrigue and mysteries slowly woven into the plot as well, most viewed through the eyes of a growing child. Some things may be legitimate mysteries, such as who Margaret's parents were, while others are more things that she simply has to learn as she was either sheltered when she was younger or simply didn't comprehend what was going on. All of this works well as we see her develop slowly and pull these threads together on her own, making for a really great balance of sub-plots to push the momentum of a strong character centric story.
Meconis' art is a big part of the charm for me as their mastery of character design, facial emoting, and their subtle uses of light and shadow in their watercolors just really make the whole world come to life. Every character is incredibly distinct and memorable, and the strength of the narrative flow just enhances those elements more and more as the story progresses.
Another reason why I really enjoyed this book was because it gives me some really strong 'Castle Waiting' vibes, and that series is an all-time favorite of mine. Meconis hits that same balance of storytelling and charm for me, so I would definitely recommend checking this out if you enjoy those types of fantasy/historical fiction works. This is intended for young readers and also hits that perfect balance where it's geared towards and accessible for children but incredibly engaging for adults. I'm also a sucker for alternate histories or mirror period pieces that offer you insight into a time period but tell their own unique story, so if that's your jam as well then you should definitely give this a shot.
The soft cover package is a heck of a deal as it's just $14.99 for 393 pages of dense and engaging story. It's such a good deal that I have to wonder if they make any money off of this package, but I love it because it makes it incredibly accessible. Right now I feel legit guilty that it took me this long to get around to reading it and that I didn't push it on more people earlier, because I think this deserves a lot of attention. It's now easily one of my new favorites, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter.