Queen of Coin and Whispers
Helen Corcoran | O’Brien Press | 464pp | €12.99 pb |9781788491181
review by Síne Quinn
‘…a powerful fantasy story filled with subterfuge, political manoeuvres and kingdom-building with a dramatic romance at its centre is perfect escapism.’
Despite being released during an extraordinary time, when it’s hard to get any media attention, Helen Corcoran’s impressive YA début novel Queen of Coin and Whispers: a kingdom of secrets and a game of lies is making a notable impact. Now more than ever a powerful fantasy story filled with subterfuge, political manoeuvres and kingdom-building with a dramatic romance at its centre is perfect escapism.
From its arresting cover to its many plot twists, turns, machinations and layers upon layers of resentment, stepping into the kingdom of Edar is completely immersive. Corcoran has created a wide cast of diverse and interesting characters, all of whom play their part in adding to the story’s intrigue and drama. But Lia and Xania, the main characters and young lovers, really steal the show. The novel is told through their points of view in alternating chapters, a narrative device that works well, providing balance throughout the gripping story, in particular when the pair become estranged.
Knowing that her uncle is dying, Princess Aurelia (Lia to those close to her) has prepared for years to take his place on the throne. But with no handover, advice or blessing, Lia is apprehensive and anxious. ‘I’d waited years for this. I’d expected to feel delight, maybe even relief. My uncle was dying. The throne would finally be mine. Panic bristled in my throat again…’
But stepping into his throne is clearly no task for the faint-hearted, even from a long line of royalty. Edar has endured years of debt; its people are restless and disillusioned, and now a young inexperienced girl is expected to lead them. Lia’s position comes under constant scrutiny. But she is strategic in her leadership, despite the many attempts to overpower, murder or marry off the young queen—assassins seem to appear out of nowhere from quiet corridors to busy market squares.
Xania, the late Baron Bayonn’s daughter, is on a mission to discover the truth about her father’s death. She is aware that her plans for vengeance could get her killed, but she is willing to take the risk. Lia’s childhood friend Matthias knows that Xania has potential for whispers and proposes her for the position. It’s not long before she proves her worth, attracting the queen’s attention. As well as dealing with her growing attraction to the queen, Xania has to overcome the prejudice against her family, despite the fact that her mother’s new marriage prompted them to fifth step. She consults her father’s notebooks for clues to solve the mystery. But it will take more than messages from the grave for her to gain respect in these challenging times. Can their relationship survive when all the odds are stacked against them? Only time will tell in this memorable and remarkable love story.
Síne Quinn holds an M.Phil in Children’s Literature and is the Managing Editor at Cubicle 7 Entertainment. A Children’s Books Ireland book doctor and creative-writing teacher working with the Bookmarks Programme at TCD, she provides editorial and writing support and advice to publishers.