Belinda reconnects with her Mexican heritage when she travels to Texas for the wedding of her best friend and investigates a local urban legend.
Integral to Belinda’s journey is the assault and murder of Milagros, a young Mexican woman who sought work in Texas in the 1950s, and is remembered as the Queen of the Cicadas, a Bloody Mary type scary story.
Acting as informal protagonist is Mictecacihuatl, Aztec goddess of death, who is manipulating different situations to once more be worshipped by humanity.
There are elements of this novel that I enjoyed. The scenes depicting Milagros’s life in Texas and her tragic demise are the most successful parts of the narrative. The depictions of Mictecacihuatl and her realm are interesting. There are certain themes about the importance of spirituality in providing purpose to life that were surprising.
Unfortunately, this novel didn’t work for me at all. Belinda is the first person point of view character, yet the narrative frequently changes to other people and places and describes things that neither Belinda nor the characters who are supposed to be telling her these stories could possibly know. What’s more, there are a lot of info dumps, especially in regard to Belinda, which read like notes that the author wrote to herself and then forgot to return to and expand upon.
At it’s heart this is a revenge horror, both immediately for the murdered Milagros, and in a broader sense for the Aztecs. These are always a hard sell for me, and I struggle to understand why the violence of the vengeance seekers is applauded while the initial violence is abhorred. While readers might enjoy the vicarious thrill of reading about horrific pain inflicted upon those who have wronged the protagonists, the logical consequence of revenge is a cycle of victim and violence that only ends with total annihilation by the most powerful aggressor. These are not stories that I find interesting or satisfying.
Indeed, in this particular case Mictecacihuatl loves death, blood sacrifice, and sex, so I don’t know why she wasn’t pleased with the acts of the Texans and Spanish.
Because of these elements, as well as sexual, occult, and religious elements that I found offensive, I award Queen of the Cicadas…