Reviews of Siren Queen by Nghi Vo

Siren Queen

by Nghi Vo

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo X
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
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  • Published:
    May 2022, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

From award-winning author Nghi Vo comes a dazzling new novel where immortality is just a casting call away.

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

"No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers." Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill―but she doesn't care. She'd rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli's world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes―even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

BookBrowse Note: Pre-Code Hollywood is the term used to describe the short era between 1929, which marked the widespread adoption of movies with sound, and 1934, when the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines (also known as the "Hays Code") came into force.

I

Wolfe Studios released a tarot deck's worth of stories about me over the years. One of the very first still has legs in the archivist's halls, or at least people tell me they see it there, scuttling between the yellowing stacks of tabloids and the ancient silver film that has been enchanted not to burn.

In that first story, I'm a leggy fourteen, sitting on the curb in front of my father's laundry on Hungarian Hill. I'm wearing waxy white flowers in my hair, and the legendary Harry Long himself, coming to pick up a suit for his cousin's wedding, pauses to admire me.

"Hola, China doll," he says, a bright red apple in his hand. "Do you want to be a movie star?"

"Oh sir," I'm meant to have replied, "I do not know what a movie star is, but would you give me that apple? I am so very hungry."

Harry Long, who made a sacrifice of himself to himself during the Santa Ana fires when I turned twenty-one, laughed and laughed, promising me a boatload of apples if I would come to the studio to audition...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Names have a great deal of power in Siren Queen. What does it suggest that we are never told Luli or Emmaline's birth names?
  2. Luli experiences several kinds of love during the course of Siren Queen. How are these loves alike, and how are they different? How do you feel about them, knowing that Luli's relationships with Emmaline and Tara end and that she ends up happy with Jane?
  3. At different times, Luli holds a number of different views about Emmaline Sauvignon. How justified do you find Emmaline's actions? Is she a villain, a heroine, or something else?
  4. The world of Siren Queen features many different forms of magic, from the railroad magic of Luli's mother to the illusions of the studio. What does it mean that Luli has no ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The dramatic style and fantastical details sometimes crowd out emotional substance, not giving the reader a sufficient entry point into the zigzagging motion of the plot, which covers Luli's formative experiences in Hollywood and her developing understanding of herself and her desires. This is almost inevitable, as the style is so specific as to get stretched at the edges when applied to each and every situation. But when it works in tandem with the character's moments of vulnerability and discovery, it achieves brilliance...continued

Full Review Members Only (754 words).

(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
In this stellar novel, Vo turns Hollywood into a fairyland—the kind from the old stories, sharp and dangerous—and laces the sparkling silver romance of the movies with a dark, exploitative, hungry greed...Pair that vivid world with the stubborn, passionate Luli and a pace that turns from slow and delightfully sexy to vast and terrifying with the turn of a page and you have the brilliantly searing Siren Queen.

Library Journal (starred review)
Movie magic is made manifest, beguiling, and deadly in Vo's tale about Luli, a Chinese American girl who is determined to realize her dreams of movie stardom...Luli is a compelling character both on and off the screen in this story that takes the mythmaking of Hollywood and transforms it and her into something transcendent. Highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Vo's spellbinding latest solidifies her position as a force to be reckoned with in speculative fiction...[Her] hypnotic prose blends metaphor with magic so seamlessly that reality itself becomes slippery. Her dazzling voice, evocative scene setting, and ambitious protagonist make this a knockout.

Author Blurb Alix E. Harrow, New York Times-bestselling author of The Once and Future Witches
Searing and seductive, Siren Queen is the kind of book that leaves you wrecked on its shores. When I look up at the stars, I'll think of Luli.

Author Blurb Martha Wells, author of Network Effect
Nghi Vo has become one of my favorite writers, and Siren Queen is lush and brilliant, a mesmerizing journey into a pre-code Hollywood that is all sharp edges, with the darkest magic and highest stakes.

Reader Reviews

Kourtney Reilly

Was ok
Let's start off by I love the name of the book and the blue color palette on the cover. Blue makes it very pretty and anything that says "Siren" catches my interest. Even though it's not about that I'm glad I read it. This book is about ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Lavender Marriages in Classic Hollywood

Publicity still of Rock HudsonNghi Vo's Siren Queen follows protagonist Luli Wei through an alternate version of historical Hollywood. While many aspects of the novel's world are fictitious to the tune of spells and supernatural beings, it also explores real-life social and political issues of the time and place, including the phenomenon of "lavender" marriages. A lavender marriage is one meant to create the appearance of heterosexuality while concealing the real sexual orientation of one or both partners. The phenomenon is often associated with gay and bisexual actors during Hollywood's classic era (1910s-60s), who were under significant pressure from studios to project a heterosexual image. Marriages for this purpose were even sometimes arranged by Hollywood studios.

...

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