Book Review: Curse of the Specter Queen (Samantha Knox #1)

Title: Curse of the Specter Queen

Author: Jenny Elder Moke

Pub. Date: June 1, 2021

Pages: 352

Pub: Disney-Hyperion

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



Samantha Knox put away her childish fantasies of archaeological adventure the day her father didn’t return home from the Great War, retreating to the safety of the antique bookshop where she works. But when a mysterious package arrives with a damaged diary inside, Sam’s peaceful life is obliterated. Ruthless men intent on reclaiming the diary are after Sam, setting her and her best friend, along with her childhood crush, on a high-stakes adventure that lands them in the green hills outside Dublin, Ireland. Here they discover an ancient order with a dark purpose – to perform an occult ritual that will raise the Specter Queen, the Celtic goddess of vengeance and death, to bring about a war unlike any the world has ever seen. To stop them, Sam must solve a deviously complex cipher – one that will lead her on a treasure hunt to discover the ancient relic at the heart of the ritual: a bowl carved from the tree of life. Will she find the bowl and stop the curse of the Specter Queen, or will the ancient order bring about the end of the world?

Indiana Jones gets a refresh with this female-driven mystery adventure, set in the 1920s, full of ciphers, ancient relics, and heart-stopping action – the first in a brand-new series!

This will be a spoiler free review. Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for a free copy in exchange for an honest review. I switched between reading the eARC and listening to the audiobook via Audible.

I went in with very few expectations. A friend read it and loved it, so I was looking forward to it. But I’d requested it so long ago, I didn’t really remember what it was about, so I dove in kind of blind. Then I fell in love.

I fucking loved this book so much. It was so good, so engaging and captivating – I never wanted it to end. Thank goodness it’s the first in a series, because I love these characters so much and I’m not ready to give them up yet. I’m already hating having to wait for the second book because I’m impatient and ready to get back to these characters. I can’t wait to see what journey they go on next.

I’m a sucker for Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, National Treasure…hell, The Mummy (and I’m sure I’m missing a few) – give me explorers (unwitting or not – doesn’t matter) and put them on a journey to discover long lost secrets – I’m sold. If they wake up some evil spirits along the way – even better. I just want drama, action, adventure and if two characters fall in love along the way…well…you won’t see me complaining.

I started this book and didn’t stop until I was done – well, I had to drive home, but that doesn’t count. It didn’t matter if co-workers wanted to talk to me, I ignored them. Didn’t matter that I had other things to do after work – I ignored them. I was so engrossed with Sam, Bennett and Joana – they complimented each other so well. Their dynamic was fantastic. They’re estranged childhood friends and they end up on this crazy adventure together. Kind of made me jealous, to be honest lol.

They all have different strengths and work so well together as a team. Watching them grow closer, feeling emerge and letting actions speak louder than words made for such a good story. I loved that even though Sam came from a different background than both Bennett and Joana, they accepted her for who she is. Sam’s been through a lot, she’s suffered, but it doesn’t stop her – not really. Her passions are redirected but never fully gone.

I was also pretty much sunk over Bennett the moment he was introduced. But who wasn’t?

I lowkey wasn’t sure how Joana’s arc was going to play out, but I loved that she was the absolute chaos to Sam’s reservation. They are a perfect duo.

And then Bennett tempers both of them, when Joana pulls them into crazy schemes – I love it.

As for the other handful of characters that share significant page time – I loved them. So, imagine my surprise when it’s revealed who is behind the conflict in the book! I was so surprise and it worked so well. I loved it.

But Sam was definitely the star of the show. I loved her so much. The growth she goes through in this book – it’s amazing. It’s so satisfying. I also really loved that she’s accepted for who she is. She’s incredibly smart and capable. She’s a badass who knows how to get out of a tight spot. She thinks on her feet, doesn’t waste time and is deeply loyal for those she cares about. Her relationship with Joana felt so real and relatable.

I feel like all I’ve done in this review is say that I loved the book – and I did lol. But I don’t feel like I have words to describe it. It was just a fantastic read and I fell head over heels for it. There wasn’t a moment I didn’t enjoy. I was swept away by this book that has some very cinematic moments. It played like aa movie in my head, and I just absolutely thoroughly enjoyed it. I honestly can’t recommend this book enough, add it to your TBRs if you just want to get swept away on an adventure for a little while.

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