Hollywood is said to be a magical place where anything can happen. Lucky nobodies can be discovered on the street and catapulted into stardom, while someone who bags your groceries one day might be lighting up the silver screen the next. In Nghi Vo’s newest outing Siren Queen, Golden Age Hollywood really is a fairy tale, but the kind that runs on magic, sacrifices, and demons controlling the big studios. The lucky few actors who become stars rise up to become immortal beings in the sky, while anyone who fails becomes fuel for the movie machine. Luli Wei yearns to see her name in lights, but she is a poor Chinese American girl who refuses to be what the studio wants: the maid character, a bit part, or a racist caricature. Instead, her only path forward to stardom and immortality is to embrace the monster inside her. With luck, courage, and conviction, Luli may achieve the stardom that she so desperately desires.
Vo’s protagonists often rail against sexism and racism in their respective societies, and Luli is no different. Since she is not a white heterosexual man, she fights against the societal and magical forces that would keep her from being a star or relegating her to only bit parts. Readers looking for nuanced lesbian romance will enjoy the different relationships with Luli’s various partners over the course of the novel. As always with Vo’s books, readers must pay attention and read between the lines; the world of Siren Queen is mystical, complicated, and very little is explained about the world or the magic system. Vo takes you along for the ride and you are expected to follow along or be swept under, much like Luli Wei in the world of Hollywood. This is another strong novel from Vo about an admirable, complicated woman learning to embrace who she is, whether that is a monster or a movie star (or both!).
Release date: May 10, 2022
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!