Review: Queen of Coin & Whispers by Helen Corcoran

Having just attended Helen Corcoran’s virtual launch (a mark of the times!) for her debut ‘Queen of Coin & Whispers’ I decided it was high time I shared my thoughts on this wonderful book. Thanks to O’Brien Press for sending me an ARC of the book. During lockdown I purchased a copy of the finished book online from the lovely Gutter Bookshop.

Queen of Coin and Whispers

Image from O’Brien Press

Queen of Coin and Whispers

Helen Corcoran

O’Brien Press, 2020

YA – fantasy

Lia has been newly crowned as queen of a corrupt state. She is passionate and idealistic, determined to reform her kingdom and be a better ruler than her uncle was. However, this is complicated by her growing attraction to Xania, her new spymaster. Xania is an intelligent and determined young woman, who has taken on the role of spymaster in a bid to avenge her father’s murder. The love that blooms between them complicates things, and they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice. With political intrigue throughout the Court and hidden enemies everywhere, they face danger and betrayal at every turn.

This was a brilliant, pacey and intriguing story. The world building is luscious and detailed – I particularly loved the mythology in the book around the Midsummer Ball.  The costuming in the book is also incredible, and tells so much about the characters, their identities and their place in the Court. The world of the book is also wonderfully diverse. There are many people of colour represented in the book – both with Xania and many minor characters.  There is excellent representation of queer relationships, and I love how well represented LGBTQ+ characters were in the book. These relationships are also completely normal and accepted in this world. Thus this world is aspirational, while also having a range of characters for LGBTQ+ readers to identify with. This is a book I wish had been around when I was a teenager, and it was so meaningful to me now.

The dual narration created two compelling narrative trends, and allowed each main character become fully rounded and developed. I adored the central characters – I loved Lia’s idealism and Xania’s stubborn nature. I shipped them with every fibre of my being. Helen Corcoran is queen of the slow burning romance, I have never been so thrilled by two characters’ hands brushing! The connection between them is intense and feels authentic. I loved how a sapphic novel brought them together! 

‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.’

Of course, this review has to mention the stunning cover designed by Emma Byrne. It really captures the spirit of  the book, while also being very eye-catching. The rose motif links to the setting of the book, and the embossed matte foil is lush.

I would highly recommend this book for fantasy fans, particularly those looking for novels featuring queer relationships and strong, authentic female protagonists. I cannot wait to read more from Helen Corcoran.

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