Vo, Nghi. Siren Queen. TorDotCom. 2022. $26.99. HC. 288 p. 9781250788832.
Luli Wei knows what girls that look like her end up doing in the movies, and she’s determined to
be none of those things – she’s going to be a star. But becoming a star in a world that survives on
the currency of the expendable masses reaching for glory requires more than a pretty face and a
little luck. It will take allies, cunning, ruthless ambition and an iron fortitude. It will take a
Nghi Vo has crafted a world that is recognizable and utterly unfamiliar. Although the rules of the
world are not explicitly stated, it doesn’t take long to be eased into understanding. It’s a quiet
kind of worldbuilding that assumes you already live there, but also doesn’t want you to turn the
corner blindly. Luli Wei’s Hollywood is cruel and beguiling, her family situation complicated,
her friends passionate about their work, her lovers passionate.
This is a book that dwells somewhere between satire and horror, and situated firmly within
queerness. It brings to mind questions about secrecy, about the price we’re willing to pay to live
authentically, what we’re willing to do to be free, and what paying those prices will do to us. It
also interrogates the part racism and sexism (among other isms) plays in what we achieve, what
we’re asked to overcome, and how to use those differences against those who would capitalize
After you read and love this one, try Aliette de Bodard’s Fireheart Tiger, or for something with
comparable themes but more in the YA realm, Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow.
Nadia M Orozco-Sahi (she/they)