Title: Curse of the Specter Queen
Author: Jenny Elder Moke
Series: Samantha Knox #1
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: eARC; audiobook
Length: 352 pages (10 hours)
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Source: eARC from the publisher via Netgalley; audiobook from the library via Libby
Recommended for fans of: archaeological mystery adventures like Indiana Jones and The Mummy
Content Warnings: fire; death of parent; grief; murder
MAY THE HAZEL BRING YOU WISDOM AND THE ASPEN GUIDE AND PROTECT YOU…
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 was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! This 1920s-set, YA historical fiction with a touch of fantasy takes readers on an archaeological adventure, full ciphers, artifacts, secret societies, ancient mysteries, and Celtic mythology.
It got off to a great start with Sam working in an antique bookstore. After a mysterious diary is delivered to the bookstore, followed by dangerous men hunting the book, Sam flees from Chicago to Ireland with her estranged best friend, Joana, and Jo’s older brother, Bennet, in search of Bennet’s Professor and answers about the deadly curse of the Specter Queen described in the book.
Some elements of the plot were predictable, but one major twist completely took me by surprise. I really loved the characters in this book, especially clever, brave Sam. I thought her reconciliation with Jo was portrayed realistically, and her slow burn with her childhood crush and best friend’s brother was really sweet. There was an unnecessary love triangle that didn’t add much to the plot, but it wasn’t a huge focus of the book.
Even though the characters and older teens and a college student, it reads like lower YA/upper MG. This book might not blow your mind, but it’s very entertaining if you enter with the right expectations. I will be picking up the sequel when it comes out!