2018: Belinda Alvarez has returned to Texas for the wedding of her best friend Veronica. The farm is the site of the urban legend, La Reina de Las Chicharras – The Queen of The Cicadas.
In 1950s south Texas a farmworker—Milagros from San Luis Potosi, Mexico—is murdered. Her death is ignored by the town, but not the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacíhuatl. The goddess hears the dying cries of Milagros and creates a plan for both to be physically reborn by feeding on vengeance and worship.
Belinda and the new owner of the farmhouse, Hector, find themselves immersed in the legend and realize it is part of their fate as well.
In V. Castro’s first of two books published this year, The Queen of the Cicadas, the story starts with Belinda flying to Texas to attend a wedding. The wedding takes place at an old farm where a vicious murder of Milagros, a farmworker, occured and is still haunted by an urban legend, the Queen of the Cicadas. The rest of the novel is Belinda’s journey into the past, to find the truth and try to show respect for Milagros and for the Queen of the Cicadas.
I like the way that V. Castro uses the theme of women, particularly marginalized women, taking control of the situation after putting up with so much from the world. Belinda and Milagros have the same motivations, trying to get the power back from the social structure that has taken it from them. Belinda is trying to find the source of the power that Milagros has found, and her companion through most of the journey is Hector, a gay man who is a friend and not a love interest. Hector works better as a companion because all of the men that are portrayed throughout the first 3/4ths of the novel are those in control. If Belinda would have found a relationship at the wedding, which is kind of what she was hoping to do, the next journey probably would not have happened. Not having that masculine voice in her ear to make Belinda question herself or just quit the quest to learn the truth behind Milagros and the Queen of the Cicadas before it is finished, Belinda is able to open the world she belongs to. There needs to be more books like this, those that give the power and control back to women without a male to try to convince her that she is wrong or wasting her time, because so much of horror and crime have a female victim, the damsel in distress, that needs saving by the strong male influence. The Queen of the Cicadas is one of the strongest examples of this trope being worn out that I have read in a long time.
I liked most of this book. The beginning and the end are very engaging. I found the middle to be too unfocused. There were so many voices and ideas coming from so many different directions that it was hard to keep track of what was happening. This was more when the narrative slipped too far off of Belinda and Hector and onto other characters and narrators, just for short periods of time, but long enough to stop any momentum that was built. If the focus would have stuck tighter onto those two there would not be a single flaw in this story. Even with this muddled middle part, I still love this story, and I love the ideas behind it. I cannot wait to read V. Castro’s other books because she is another must read female horror writer.
I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.