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Siren Queen by Nghi Vo

Siren Queen

by Nghi Vo

Quick take

This magical story of a would-be starlet who may have to risk all to rise is as enthralling as a silver screen classic.

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    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LGBTQ

    LGBTQ+ themes

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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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Siren Queen.

Why I love it

I love precise language. As a student of both poetry and translation, I savor every word when it’s clear an author has done the same. Nghi Vo is nothing short of a master wordsmith; in Siren Queen, she has fashioned a language all her own, a dialect that transcends earthly matters and creates a brand-new, fantastical world.

Siren Queen centers around an intrepid, mesmerizing young woman. Luli Wei wants nothing more than to be a star of the silver screen. But Luli knows that to rise to those Hollywood heights will require incredible personal sacrifice, especially for a working class girl from the wrong side of the tracks. So when the opportunity comes to make a name of herself, she’s willing to sign her life away to achieve it—literally. But as Luli falls further into fame, the stakes keep increasing, until it becomes more and more difficult to fend off bloodthirsty directors all too eager to tarnish her name.

As I read this book, I was swept away by its vision of 1930s films—even as I worried for Luli and the lengths she’s willing to go to for her dream, which made for a delicious and nail-biting contrast. It’s with high praise that I say this: I have never read a book quite like Siren Queen. Whether you are a fantasy reader looking for innovative new monsters to fear or just someone who admires a groundbreaking conceit, this book will blow your mind.

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Member ratings (1,777)

  • Tina H.

    Seattle, WA

    Most impressive in magical components and the power given to women. Vo refreshingly did not subject Luli to sexual abuse, a rare find in a book where the femme lead gains power. Can’t wait to read mor

  • Rae R.

    Austin , TX

    What a delightfully odd book! I went in expecting slight magical realism, but got a lot more magic (always good). I loved the theme of how the monstrous is beautiful, and the queerness was top notch.

  • Christine V.

    Oak Lawn, IL

    Old Hollywood with all its glitz, but there is a dark side, where wannabe actresses make creepy bargains for stardom and human sacrifice is a thing. Beautiful writing, dark, mysterious. I loved it.

  • Tina M.

    Springfield, MO

    What an absolutely stunning and beautifully written book! Old Hollywood was the real draw here but the magical bits thrown in were fascinating! I could not love this more!! What a sensational read!

  • Courtney M.

    New Braunfels, TX

    Nghi Vo is such a master at writing historical magical realism. I highly recommend this book if you like Old Hollywood stories and wish that there were more stories about POC actors in that era.