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The Queen of the Cicadas

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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.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published June 22, 2021

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About the author

V. Castro

33 books695 followers
Hi ! Thank you so very much for picking up my books. You can also check out www.lamuertemarket.com

Wishing you Blessings and Abundance!

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5 stars
297 (23%)
4 stars
506 (40%)
3 stars
314 (25%)
2 stars
95 (7%)
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28 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 321 reviews
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 21 books4,817 followers
December 29, 2021
(I don't rate books with stars-Please read the review)
Review originally published at Cemetery Dance Online:
There are so many important themes to unpack in V. Castro’s The Queen of the Cicadas, that I almost don’t know where to start. First, I’ll entice you with some plot details. There is a dual narrative which involves a present-day wedding ceremony at a farmhouse and a story from the past that takes place at the same location.

The narrative taking place in the 1950s hits close to home for me. Milagros is a migrant farmworker in rural Texas. My own grandfather, Isaac Solis, left Monterrey, Mexico, with his family and worked their way through Texas picking everything from peaches to bell peppers. My mom tells a story of a man approaching my great-grandfather to see if he could buy my Papa Isaac at nine years old to work a farm several miles away from the farm where his family worked. My great-grandfather agreed and he was taken away. Story has it he ran all the way back in the middle of the night and when my grandmother saw him, she wouldn’t let him be taken again.

In The Queen of Cicadas, Castro tells the story of Milagros, a woman working at a farm who finds herself the target of hate. Her dangerous predicament escalates despite her efforts to flee. In a moment of extreme brutality (that honestly felt like Jesus symbolism to me) the Aztec goddess of Death, Mict?cacihu?tl, supernaturally infuses herself with Milagros’ spirit to avenge her murder and exact revenge.

Excuse me, but it’s fucking awesome.

From here, this narrative takes on a life of its own in the style of other urban legend horror stories like Candyman or La Llorona.

In the present day narrative, Belinda and her new friend Hector (the owner of the legendary farmhouse) are hell-bent on learning the origin story for the Queen of the Cicadas. I must admit, I enjoyed my time in the past so much more than the present and always felt a little impatient to get back to that story. Not that I was disinterested in Belinda, but I did feel like that narrative didn’t feel as intricately plotted as the other story so the tension was muddled.

By the end of this book, readers will have a strong sense of who V. Castro is as a writer and the stories she will continue to tell. It’s an exciting journey that I’m excited to be on so I can experience the magic of Castro’s universe and her cast of kick ass, strong women characters.
Profile Image for Chris.
247 reviews59 followers
June 9, 2021
The Queen of the Cicadas combines folklore and myth. The story has dual timelines with the first focusing on Belinda who is in Texas for her friend's wedding. The farmhouse in Alice, Texas just so happens to be the site of the murder of Milagros Santos, now known as La Reina de la Chicharras, or Queen of the Cicadas.

Belinda becomes fascinated by the story of Milagros and decides to investigate the urban legend and bring some closure to the Milagros family with the owner of the farm, Hector.

The second timeline focuses n Milagros and the events that lead up to her racially motivated murder on that farm. Milagros was a migrant worker who picked cotton the farm and sent the money back to her family in Mexico until her death.

The dual timelines were a little confusing at first, but once I got into the rhythm of it, I was able to follow. The plot is very well done and made me want to keep reading to see what happened next. I felt the characters were well rounded and I enjoyed getting to know them.

Not only is this a tale of horror, it is also a look at migrant workers who were brought to the US using the bracero program and the conditions that many faced. The bracero program was a government program that brought people from Mexico to the US because there weren't enough farm workers to tend the farms because of World War II

My appreciation to Flame Tree Press, author V. Castro, and NetGalley for gifting me a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,206 reviews3,210 followers
April 25, 2021
3.5 Stars
After reading and loving this author's first 2021 release, I was very excited to learn that she had a second book coming out later this year!

V Castro once again demonstrates her ability to write fierce, complex female characters. This book offered perspective on infertility, IVF treatments and the challenges of accepting the role of being a mother. I love an author who is not afraid to show the ugly sides of their female characters. 

In terms of the story itself, unfortunately I found this one quite muddle. We follow multiple narrative threads and they just did not come together for me. The story felt fragmented at times and lacked to cohesive storytelling I look for in my Books 

As an ownvoices story, this one had a lot of references to Mexican culture. I always appreciate these elements of diversity in my fiction, but I also know that an Mexican reviewer will get more meaning out of those references than I was able to glean. 

Overall, this was a compelling diverse read that will likely appeal most to readers with a personal connection to Latinx culture. 

Disclaimer I received a copy of this book from the publisher. 
Profile Image for inciminci.
397 reviews72 followers
December 2, 2021
I never thought I’d write one of those reviews that start with “I wanted to like this book so much…” but here we are. I was seriously excited for The Queen of the Cicadas; an urban legend à la Candyman; a gory revenge of Mesoamerican Goddesses with underlying critique of the USA immigration system, a lament against racism and injustice. And to be fair it delivers all that.

But I also found before me a book that is all over the place; a jumble of back-and-forth between different timelines, characters, points of view; an unclear plot and a rushed end.
I really needed to fight my way through different passages that without any kind of marker or structure jump from one narrator or point of view to another. Just when you thought you have the hang of it, brand-new storylines are being introduced whereas the initial buildup feels like ages. I would have preferred it if this was either a much shorter book which concentrates on one aspect, or a much bigger book, maybe a series so that the story could have had the time to ripen. 220 pages were just not enough for such a big project.

Except for the past storyline, which was really nicely done, the focus was mainly on one character, Belinda, whilst the others weren’t really well-developed. Take the main character’s best friend Hector for instance; he is being mainly described through the eyes of Belinda and doesn’t have enough dialogue space to express himself or even to give him a trace of a personality. He feels blank. On the other hand, other characters were emphasized excessively, like the Goddess of Death, Mictecacíhuatl, who, every time she enters a new scene, introduces herself; a whopping five times does she specify her name and function. I have pondered this a lot, but still don’t understand why it was the author’s choice to do so, since it also takes away from the scariness.

Despite all its faults I appreciate what the author is doing, hence the rating, but I’m not sure if I will pick up another book by her in the future.
Profile Image for Scott  Neumann.
83 reviews130 followers
July 9, 2021
What a good novel, I enjoyed this immensely and completed this basically in one sitting, it has been quite awhile since I was able to do this with a novel.

When Belinda attends her friend Jasmines wedding, she comes to discover that an urban legend legend used to frighten children is actually real. Soon she becomes obsessed with finding out the truth and getting justice for the victim at the center of the legend.

Steeped in Mexican Folklore, and jumping between multiple time frames the story moves at brisk pace and never lets up. V. Castro is and exciting new voice in horror and I cant wait to read more by this author.
Profile Image for Laurie  (barksbooks).
1,751 reviews699 followers
February 1, 2022
Rage, roaches, and retribution make a heady mix and an uncomfortable reading experience - as it should be. People can be horrid. Here a few get what’s coming to them! Real review soon if I can be a quiet minute to think.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,639 reviews2,154 followers
May 1, 2021
I am always looking for horror that doesn't feel like a retread and this certainly fits the bill. Not only do you have Castro's story steeped in Mexican mythology and Mexican American culture, the prose, the style, and the structure all feel distinctive.

I particularly liked the way this story, while still rooted in the horror morality tale we have seen so often, also moves past it into a much bigger universe with a whole different way of seeing everything. What starts off feeling familiar is less and less so the farther you get.

Even the familiar, the story of Milagros, is not quite what you're used to. Milagros is young and pretty, yes, but she isn't a privileged teen, she's an undocumented migrant worker whose labor makes a comfortable life possible for the white people in small town Texas that profit off of her and the other workers. Belinda is less of a familiar horror protagonist, though we have seen women like her at the center of these stories mostly in sequels where they are there to be a contrast with their younger selves. She is approaching middle age, she has worked her way up to a comfortable life only to find she no longer wants it. Divorced, with her son off to college, she isn't rooted anywhere and perhaps that is why she attaches herself to Hector. Hector wants to be settled, he's just ended a relationship where he wanted children and his partner didn't, and has invested everything in the old farmhouse he's converted into a B&B. It turns out the land includes the place where Milagros was murdered decades earlier, a story Belinda already knows.

The story is interesting but the prose can be rather rough. (Part of this is that my galley didn't have full paragraph and section breaks so it could feel like it jumped very quickly from scene to scene.) Sometimes Castro will suddenly move past something in a sentence or two and it was occasionally disorienting, but mostly because it goes against your expectations of how a narrative will unfurl.

Almost every character here is Latinx (except for some very bad white people, obvi) and many are also queer. There's a significant emphasis on families passing down traditions of magic and/or healing, often with indigenous origins.

It can be quite gory, and lots of cicadas tend to show up when things get bloody, so yes the title is literal about the bugs. Includes infertility and a traumatic birth, threats of sexual assault (there might have been a sexual assault on the page, I can't remember 100%) , and some weird issues of consent when a god wants to join in while you're having sex (I mean, I had some questions).
Profile Image for Sally.
206 reviews40 followers
November 22, 2022
3.5 rounded up. This one was totally fun, extremely weird and creepy, kinda sexy and haunting. So much happened that sometimes I feel like I wasn't reading deep enough. Like my enjoyment of the story was just skimming the surface of everything that was going on. I loved the Mexican folklore and historical quality to the parts from the past. And every character was rich and developed. I definitely recommend this, especially to readers who dig folk horror. I think I will do a re-read on this one someday and try to delve a little deeper into the layers.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,538 reviews159 followers
October 3, 2021

LA REINA DE LAS CHICHARRAS - was für ein klingender Titel! Ein Horrorroman, der auf zwei Säulen fußt: Die Ausbeutung und unmenschliche Behandlung mexikanischer "Gastarbeiter" während und nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg in den USA (Stichwort Bracero Program) und sexuelle Gewalt gegen mexikanische Frauen. Insbesondere in der ersten Hälfte des Romans überzeugten mich die sozialkritischen Beobachtungen:

"Beneath your skin and bones, something else resides, your true nature. And one thing I learned way too late in life is that just because your degree is printed on white paper, it doesn´t change those preconceived notions about your brown skin", stellt die Ich-Erzählerin Belinda aus eigener Erfahrungen fest.

Schlimmer noch als mexikanischer Herkunft zu sein in den USA ist es, mexikanischer Herkunft und eine Frau zu sein:

"Making hard choices like my mother, damned either way because women seemed destined to be damned where I came from."

Eine Kindheitserinnerung von Belinda, die auch die Armut deutlich macht, der sie entrinnen wollte:

"My space in the world was a mattress on the floor with a few low bookcases to divide it from the rest of the living room, like a puppy with a bit of newspaper."

Belinda besucht zu Beginn des Romans die Hochzeitsfeier ihrer Kindheitsfreundin Veronica und wird an eine alte Geschichte erinnert, die ihre Großmutter erzählte und die im Jahr 1952 spielt.
Ich hatte noch nie vom "Bracero Program" gehört und mir war nicht bekannt, wie viele mexikanische "Gastarbeiter" während und kurz nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg in die USA gelockt wurden, um dort unter unmenschlichsten Bedingungen auf den Feldern zu arbeiten. Die, die nicht legal im Wege des Programms über die Grenze kamen, waren der Willkür ihrer Arbeitgeber (fast hätte ich "ihrer Herren" geschrieben) schutzlos ausgeliefert.

Erzählt wird die Geschichte der Feldarbeiterin Milagros, die jeden Tag bis zur absoluten körperlichen und seelischen Erschöpfung Baumwolle pflückt und Opfer der Nachstellungen des Farmverwalters wird:
"Some people felt entitled to anything they laid their eyes on. She managed to mumble, "Thank you for the job, Senor." It was one of the first phrases she learned when entering the country."

Schilder mit der Aufschrift "No dogs, no Negroes, no Mexicans" waren gang und gäbe und damals moralisch nicht fragwürdig.

Wer wie ich einen konventionellen Roman mit einer Urban Legend erwartet hat, wird im ersten Teil von dieser geballten Ladung an Gesellschaftskritik schlicht umgehauen.
Belinda, die sich mit Sex, Alkohol und reichlich Schminke über Wasser hält, könnte so ähnlich auch in einem Text von Anne Sexton oder Sylvia Plath vorkommen.

Zum geschilderten sozialen Horror kommt das eigentliche Horrorelement hinzu, die rächende Göttin der Zikaden, die den gewaltsamen Tod von Milagros rächt. Zunächst geht es blutig zur Sache, dann bekommt die Story einen Dreh, grobe Richtung Lovecraft´scher kosmischer Schrecken. Hier werde ich nicht ins Detail gehen, um die Handlung nicht zu spoilern.
Während mir viele Passagen des Romans ausgezeichnet gefallen haben, schien mir in der zweiten Hälfte dann einiges etwas ungelenk zusammengefügt. Violet Castro, so mein Eindruck, hatte bestimmte Szenen im Kopf, die sie im Roman unterbringen wollte, die sich aber - anders als im ersten Teil - nicht so einfach aneinanderreihen ließen. Verschiedene Themenfelder explodieren hier, die teilweise etwas willkürlich wirken, und am Ende droht die Geschichte ins Pathetische abzugleiten.

Fazit: Sozialkritik und Frauenrechte sind Themen, die den schlanken Roman (gerade 200 Seiten) lesenswert machen. Die Horrorelemente überzeugen zum Teil, wirken in anderen Momenten aber auch überzogen und platt.
Profile Image for Alex | | findingmontauk1.
1,263 reviews94 followers
May 16, 2022
THE QUEEN OF THE CICADAS by V. Castro delivers revenge, strong women, and horror in all the best ways. I've read a handful of works by Castro and this one has a darker edge to it than what I have experienced before and I am here for it! While I was disturbed at a lot that was going on in both the past and present (this story has alternating timelines that are a joy to bounce back and forth between to get to know more of the big picture!), but I think that is entirely the point. People can be cruel. Can revenge be worth it at the expense of others? Is it justified? You have to read this story of a woman scorned, wronged, and murdered as she rises from the dirt in this powerful urban legend. I love Castro's writing style and how she infuses all of her stories with Mexican culture and history and she never skimps on a chance to make it sexy and sensual where it works best. She is a powerful voice and I am so thankful that she is in the world of horror fiction where we can all devour her works and be shocked and horrified together.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,216 reviews118 followers
June 29, 2021
A mesmerising read, the beautiful writing by Castro is sure to pull in any fan of folklore horror stories. Most people must have heard of Bloody Mary or The Candyman, the La Reina de Las Chicharras myth is similar, say her name into a mirror three times and you’ll see her, an event you’re sure to regret. I recently saw the TV series Penny Dreadful City of Angels and was really looking forward to seeing that Mexican/American Folklore come to life on the screen, in the end I was disappointed, a very flat story that was rather muddled…. The Queen of The Cicadas meets everything I wanted from that series. It is dark, devastating and sexy, the myth of La Reina de Las Chicharras was absorbing and I could hardly put down the book, I was always telling myself “one more page”.

The story follows Belinda and Hector in present day time experiencing a paranormal event, their research pulls them into the history of a farmworker, Milagros, who is brutally murdered in the 1950’s and a series of vengeance attacks on those responsible and on them that ignored the crime. I found myself siding with the Queen which is not something you usually expect when dealing with these Urban Legends, the punishment she deals out seemed perfectly reasonably to me. As the story progresses I really liked how Castro uses modern technology to enable the existence of the Queen to go viral, it made her feel more life like, one day there might even be videos of her on Twitter.

The writing is impeccable, the violence was graphic just enough to make the point, and the violence dealt to Milagros had me sitting there with my mouth open, even the scenes with sex were very tasteful, a lot of books can make you cringe with awkward sex but there is none of that here, each scene was beautiful. The book builds up your fear ready for big reveals, there lots of things happening out of the corner of eyes, which keeps you on the edge of your seat.

I have really enjoyed this, it has left me wondering why I don’t read more horror, I really need to get out there and look for more, V. Castro has moved onto my favourite authors list and I’ll be looking at what else she has.

Blog review: https://felcherman.wordpress.com/2021...
Profile Image for Cobwebby Eldritch Reading Reindeer .
5,255 reviews296 followers
June 23, 2021
One can "be woken" by reading nonfiction accounts, whether contemporary or historical. One can also achieve that [albeit painfully] through well-tuned and gifted fictional narratives. Although not a Person of Color, I've been awakened to the lives and despair and plights of Latina women and girls through QUEEN OF THE CICADAS by V. Castro, and MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Maybe it is accurate that one cannot really comprehend until one lives it; but certainly we can see at least the glimmering, and sometimes see deeper, when gifted authors tell stories and we listen and learn. Then we can change ourselves to improve, to "stay awake" to our sisters (and brothers), and to try to share and inspire others to change. Certainly I am not the same individual as I was before I undertook to read and learn.

QUEEN OF THE CICADAS gathers such an immensity of threads of theme and character, of history and contemporary "society," of Culture and Manifest Destiny, conquest and hatred, fear of "the other," greed, psychological emptiness and the yearning for Love and compassion, Myth and Multiverses. I am speechless to express it all. Just read it, devour, digest (as the example of Belinda and the Cicada), then let this novel Wake you and Change you.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,807 reviews796 followers
August 21, 2021
I don’t even know where to begin with this book because I just loved it so fucking much and there’s so much I want to say and no adequate words to do it how it should be done. This book has officially SLAYED me and I don’t know if I’ll ever recover. It is just so damn bloody brilliant and checks all my boxes and some boxes I didn’t even know I had! It really has everything you could want from a book, horror and Latinx culture and love and loss and legends and long kept secrets and terrifying vengeful spirits. Just EVERYTHING. I was hooked from start to finish and I couldn’t put the book down, I had a deep burning desire to find out how it would turn out. I really couldn’t have loved this book more, it had everything I love in a horror novel and it was just perfect. Castro has such a hypnotizing writing style and after this taste I am absolutely DYING for more, I’m officially addicted and addiction has never felt so good.
Profile Image for Michael Hicks.
Author 36 books442 followers
May 4, 2021
Death is hardly the end for Milagros, a murdered migrant laborer turned urban legend, in V. Castro's The Queen of the Cicadas. Tortured to death in the late 1950s on the farmstead where she briefly lived and worked, her spirit now haunts the refurbished farm-turned-hotel. Belinda learns of Milagros while staying at the hotel for a friend's wedding and becomes obsessed with the dead woman's story and the myths surrounding her, particularly that of La Reina de las Chicharras, the Queen of the Cicadas.

Making use of two timelines for much of the book allows Castro to explore Milagros's history through Belinda, who talks with and befriends hotel owner Hector, as well as the aged local priest who served the town back in the 50s. Castro spares no expense detailing Milagros's murder and the fates of her attackers in the aftermath of the woman's death as La Reina de las Chicarras delivers justice. The Queen of the Cicadas is a sort-of Candyman or Bloody Mary figure, updated here with a nifty Latinx twist.

Belinda and Hector's excavations into the past gives Castro plenty of room to deftly explore social and political issues, primarily the ways in which hate crimes were investigated, or more accurately were not, by white lawman in the '50s and how little has changed in the realm of race relations between US caucasians and Mexicans given the rise of vile and vulgar racists like Donald Trump, who established concentration camps along the US border to imprison Mexican immigrants, wherein they were routinely abused by ICE officers and some women were forced to undergo surgeries without consent or postcare treatment. That anybody in the US ever thought Trump was a suitable candidate for office of the presidency shows just how little this progressed and much farther we still have to go to grow and improve as a nation. Some of the best moments in The Queen of the Cicadas, in fact, come with seeing these racists and authoritarians get their just desserts via extrajudicial supernatural means (even if it rather localized to the Texas/Mexicos border...but god, what a dream it would be to see La Reina de las Chicarras pay a visit to Mar-a-Lago!).

The supernatural elements here are absolutely delicious and are built off Aztec mythology. I found a lot to appreciate in Castro's commentary regarding these legends and the ways they have not only been forgotten but destroyed in the white man's conquests and colonizations and replaced with Christianity. For all those (typically white American) readers who still question why, in the 21st Century, it's important to read diversely, this is why! So much rich history has been eradicated and supplanted by centuries of genocide, and all we've been left with is homogeneous, regurgitated, whitewashed bullshit. Thank Cthulhu for Latinx authors like Castro, Cynthia Pelayo, and Gabino Iglesias, who are pushing horror forward with their challenges against a stagnant status quo and enriching this genre with their OwnVoices perspectives, infusing their tales of terror with fresh takes built of their own cultures, personal histories, and viewpoints.

It's this that ultimately makes The Queen of the Cicadas a special, and at times quite poignant, work of horror. While it does have some elements that make for easy comparisons - like the titular Candyman/Bloody Mary-esque figure - it also offers glimmers of hope for those beatdown, underdog cultures to regain their prominence and fight back against the evils that have been inflicted upon them. What begins as an urban legend grows into something far more subversive and intriguing in Castro's capable hands. Long live La Reina de las Chicarras!
Profile Image for exorcismemily.
1,265 reviews335 followers
July 14, 2021

Queen of the Cicadas is the newest release from V Castro, and it's a good read! There are alternating timelines between a character in the past and a character in the present. There's some difficult subject matter, and it can be a bit of a depressing read at times (it was always interesting, though!). I got confused about what was going on a couple times, and sometimes way the deaths were handled felt repetitive. I think I got it sorted out in the end, though, and I did enjoy the book. I'm excited to check out Goddess of Filth next!

Content notes - characters experience racism, torture, misogyny, hate crime
Profile Image for Kevin Lucia.
Author 38 books327 followers
May 7, 2021
A challenging novel of historical horror, full of substance and rich culture, the horror here lies not just with the supernatural, but also with all-too common evil of racism and prejudice. Very much recommended.
Profile Image for OutlawPoet.
1,298 reviews69 followers
May 24, 2021

So, I’m not Mexican, but I’m from L.A. and Mexican American history and culture has very much been a part of my own upbringing. A good friend of the family was part of the zoot suit riots. I knew who La Llorona was before I hit first grade. We learned about Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta. My closest friends growing up were Mexican and I sometimes spent more time in their own houses than I did my own. So while it’s not 100% my culture…it’s kind of part of my culture by proxy if that make sense.

In Queen of the Cicadas, V. Castro brings us a tale of racism and retribution wrapped up in a dark fable steeped in Mexican culture and history. The story of Milagros resonates – it’s all too familiar for those who’ve heard the stories of what happens to the women out in the field – even more so to those whose family members live it, even today. The mixture of modern day Mexican American culture and ancient Aztec culture works wonderfully here, throwing the reader into a story that is incredibly rich and beautifully terrifying.

If I had any issue with the storytelling, it was in the transition between modern times and the older times. For me, the transitions weren’t seamless, occasionally causing me to stumble.

But, oh, I enjoyed the story immensely and loved the way everything ended.

I will very happily read the author again and again!

*ARC provided via Net Galley
Profile Image for Netanella.
4,280 reviews12 followers
March 17, 2023
3 1/2 stars, rounded up, of course!

"The Queen of the Cicadas" is part folk horror, part feminist angst, part migrant farm worker expose, part Aztec mythology, part anti-colonialism. There's a bitter, divorced Mexican-American woman, Belinda, who's middle aged and empty; a murdered young Mexican girl in 1950s Texas, Milagros, whose vengeful ghost creates the local death legend of La Reina de las Chicharras. The current owner of the haunted farmhouse. A mystery. A Goddess of Death. Female vengeance.

All of this was awesome, and the parts that I loved the most. A GR friend of mine recommended that I look further into Mexican indigenous religious practices, and recommended that I start with María Sabina. I will definitely pursue this.

There were areas of the book that were problematic to me, especially the pacing of the storyline towards the last third of the book. But overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, and have become a fan of V. Castro's and her storytelling. Kudos to the author!
Profile Image for Becky Spratford.
Author 4 books540 followers
June 1, 2021
Star review and an interview with the author appears in the June 2021 issue of Library Journal. Review is here: https://www.libraryjournal.com/?revie...

Interview to come

Three Word That Describe This Book: revenge, unflinching, voice to the voiceless

Draft Review:

In her engrossing, violent, and exultant debut novel, Castro boldly crafts a brutal revenge Horror story, one that belatedly but firmly delivers justice to the world’s forgotten women. In 1952, on a farm in Texas, Milagros, a farm worker from Mexico, was brutally murdered. As she is dying, tied to a tree, suffocating on the Cicada shells stuffed down her throat, the Aztec Goddess of Death pledges herself to Milagros. The land becomes cursed and haunted, and the legend of MIlagros, the Queen of the Cicadas grows until Belinda, middle aged and facing a midlife crisis, returns in 2019 to her hometown for the wedding of a childhood friend, on the now renovated farm. Belinda, and the new owner of the property, Hector, both lost souls who on the outside seem to have succeeded in a world set against them, connect with the spirits and help bring their awesome and terrifying power back into the world, giving voice to the voiceless all over the world and punishing oppressors everywhere.

Verdict: Castro delivers an unflinching, honest, raw, and thought provoking horror tale that is both serious in its social commentary and fun to read. For fans of gruesome, vengeance themed horror, that is deeply tied to its place and the marginalized identities of its protagonists such as The Only Good Indians by Jones and Frankenstein in Baghdad by Saadawi.

Readalikes: Carmen Maria Machado and My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones [revenge horror and voice for the voiceless] Frankenstein in Baghdad same feel and supernatural "monster" but with a "good" reason behind it.
Profile Image for Julia Lewis.
Author 13 books42 followers
April 27, 2021
The story of The Queen of the Cicadas in itself is a great one. It's a story largely centered on racism, revenge and bloodshed. I really appreciate how unapologetic the author brought the unfair treatment of Mexican farm workers to our attention. I enjoyed all the urban legend elements and learning about aspects of Mexican culture.

What I did not like was how muddled the story felt. I realize it was set in two different times, but at some points it was hard to distinguish what was truly happening. To me, certain scenes switched too fast and without explanation.

It is still a great story, and I think it might just be a personal issue with the jumps.

Thanks to the publisher for the copy.
Profile Image for dovesnook.
572 reviews124 followers
October 29, 2022
Idk what to say other than w o w 👏👏👏😦. This is the type of horror that really just creeps up on you and lingers around when the lights go out. Like other of V. Castro’s books, this one has a dual timeline with multiple POVs. One is set in the 1950s during the Bracero program and follows the life and death of a Mexican woman named Milagros. Her brutal and unjust murder summons La Santa Muerte (Aztec goddess of death named Mictecacihuatl). The present timeline follows Belinda who is staying at the place where the crime happened.

The connection between the two women goes beyond coincidence. It was trippy and drew me in from beginning to end. There’s so much to unpack with every theme Castro brings up, but I’m sure someone has done that already. Don’t skip out on this read for spooky season! Definitely left me pulling my covers up to my nose multiple times.
Profile Image for Mel.
257 reviews43 followers
June 29, 2021
It took a little bit for me to get into the story, but once I did… I was all in. What an incredible mash up of Mexican folklore and body horror that gives a voice to characters and perspectives that are under explored in modern literature. Without spoiling anything, the ending also provides a satisfying amount of catharsis without spiralling into a cheap revenge fantasy. I loved it. Read this book!

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Robin Bonne.
632 reviews141 followers
June 17, 2021
Don’t sleep on this author.
V. Castro’s second book was difficult to read at times. Her books may be quick reads, but there are so many layers to her words that I’m thinking about the stories long after I’ve finished. Her words invoke a strong emotional response in me.

The scariest horror is the historical aspect of the labor camps. The folklore legend of the Queen of the Cicadas was well written and I was disturbed by how Milagros was murdered. It came together perfectly in an unexpected way. It is a book that I won’t forget any time soon.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review.
Profile Image for Steve Stred.
Author 71 books519 followers
April 28, 2023
From the beginning, V. Castro has been one of my biggest supporters. I’m always humbled when people continuously show up for you, and V.’s always done that. From reading and posting about my work, to sharing in celebratory news and blurbing some of my releases, I can’t thank her enough.

In that same time, I’ve been trying to keep up on my reading with her written output, but she’s been super prolific and with my TBR getting to the point of giving my Kindle a migraine, I’ve fallen a bit behind.

So, it was, that I was excited to see this one, her Bram Stoker-nominated, Flame Tree Press novel arrive at the top of my list. I’ll be diving into her ‘Alien’ franchise novel soon, but this one was up first and I began with an anxiousness that I’d not felt in some time.

What I liked: The novel is split into two time periods, the 50’s and present day, and in each, we’re given strong women characters to root for. In the 50’s, its Milagros, a young, Mexican woman who has moved to the States to work on a farm and earn money to send home to her family. In the present day, its Belinda, a Mexican woman trying to find her path in life after some setbacks – personal and professional – but who has a connection with Milagros.

Set on the sprawling farm where a horrific event took Milagros from this earth, Belinda desperately wants to bring Milagros closure, while also trying to get to the bottom of what happened and why the land is cursed.

The scenes between Belinda and the Queen of Death were phenomenal and felt much like what Barker had done with his Cenobites and human characters. It was unnerving, creepy as hell and showed that she had power and restraint.

The folklore/Mexican-lore that influenced this and drove the narrative was really well done and it gave the story a textured and aromatic presence, bringing you directly into each scene as V. wrote like a possessed author pouring forth her soul.

The ending – while expected – still contained an emotional wallop, one that will hit the reader in the guts before pushing you to the floor and driving in deeper with your assailants heel.

What I didn’t like: I found that the novel suffered a few pacing stutters. We would be racing along only for someone to go to bed or they’d wake up the next day and seemingly not want to continue following what had been happening.

As well, there was a huge missed opportunity to create a truly frightening scene, when a Scy Fy ghost hunting show came to the farm. I was expecting a significant portion devoted to them filming, discovering and revealing what was happening, but instead everything involving them was over and done with in five or six paragraphs.

Why you should buy this: V. Castro has found her storytelling voice and fuck if it isn’t powerful and a refreshing change. Strong characters, women who want to have sex, not be taken advantage of and who’ll rip someone’s heart out if they look at them the wrong way. I’ve long been a fan of Castro’s work, but seeing her literary rise has been nothing but amazing and inspiring and this one is a solid read from start to finish.
Profile Image for J.D. Keown.
Author 4 books30 followers
May 27, 2021
Originally posted over at my personal blog site, Night Terror Novels

“Unlike things like gravity and the sun, justice is a commodity, like oil or cotton or tobacco.”
– V. Castro, The Queen of the Cicadas

🦗I received an e-ARC of this story from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. The Queen of the Cicadas (2021) will publicly release on the 22nd June!🦗

V. Castro is an author who has been on my radar for such a long time now, and I’ve heard overwhelmingly positive things in response to many of her releases. They’ve also been appearing thick and fast as of late – which I think is testament to the author’s amazing work ethic and output – and so I figured it was high time for me to finally check one out! I’ve started with this, her upcoming title with the excellent Flame Tree Press and their Fiction Without Frontiers imprint. I’m a big fan of this publishing house too, so immediately went for this novel when it popped up on NetGalley. And after reading this one, I’ll definitely be checking out more of Castro’s stuff just as soon as I can.

The Queen of the Cicadas, or La Reina de Las Chicharras, follows a woman named Belinda Alvarez, who returns to Texas for the wedding of her closest friend Veronica. The farmhouse where the wedding is being held is the site from which a notorious urban legend was born: the titular La Reina de Las Chicharras. As Belinda gets to know the farm’s current owner Hector, the pair are drawn into the tale of Milagros, the woman behind the legend, and the gruesome circumstances of her murder during the 1950s. The jaded and uncaring townsfolk ignore her death, but someone – or rather something – takes notice: namely the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacíhuatl.

Obviously it goes without saying that the real horror on display here is not the so-called Queen of the Cicadas, or even the goddess Mictecacíhuatl, but the abhorrent treatment of Milagros by the racist and backwards members of the family she works for, and the indifference displayed by the rest of the townsfolk of Alice, Texas. There are some pretty grotesque scenes and descriptions in this book, but one that stands out is Milagros’s death itself. Castro doesn’t shy away from presenting the macabre reality, and though it sometimes makes for a challenging read, it is also an important one.

Without giving away too much in regards to the plot, I do just want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the way Castro explores what would happen if a deity like Mictecacíhuatl was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be real and exist, and examines the ramifications of such a revelation. What starts as a relatively contained story of a woman investigating an old urban legend on a farm in Texas quickly unfurls and grows into something so much more significant, as themes of faith, belief and devotion also weave into the narrative.

Whenever I read a book, I always take notes down of passages that I find interesting, powerful, or resonant, and naturally, it often so happens that the more notes I feel compelled to jot down the stronger I think the book is. By the time I was done with this book, I had quite a hefty pile of notes, which I personally think is testament to the strength of the writing. This feels like such a personal book, and the raw, unflinching manner in which it confronts some tough subjects and important issues head on is truly impressive. The author doesn’t beat around the bush, and instead tackles these topics with lucidity and honesty.

Obviously as a white English guy I haven’t experienced anything close to oppression or lack of representation, but I’ve seen plenty of people from a similar background to Castro praising her work on confronting these issues and offering that representation through her stories and characters – praise that is fully deserved, as she is doing an admirable and commendable job of championing underrepresented or disenfranchised voices through her writing.

On the subject of Castro’s writing, it is fantastic not only for its natural flow – which makes it very easy to devour quickly – but also for the unfiltered, often brutal honesty it is laced with. There’s real heart and passion to the author’s voice, and it makes for an engrossing and impactful read. The characters were all very well-written as well. I absolutely loved the friendship between Belinda and Hector, and during the sections that concerned Milagros’s story, you could really empathise with her torment. These parts were by turns painful, infuriating and emotionally affecting – the injustice of Milagros’s fate was illustrated perfectly, and it only made it all the more satisfying to see these awful people get their just desserts.

I think the only real problem for me was that sometimes the pacing was a little uneven, particularly towards the finale, in which the tempo slows down quite considerably. It just felt like it lost some of the earlier momentum during the final act, though I did enjoy the ending itself, and thought it fit the narrative perfectly. That minor point aside though, this is a sensationally good book – the story is both mesmerizing and deeply unsettling, and Castro’s writing is incredibly readable and so heartfelt.

VERDICT: The Queen of the Cicadas is a passionate and powerful read that takes a familiar basis for the urban legend of the titular queen and spins it into something all of its own. The story Castro weaves is wonderful – at some times dreamlike and fantastical, and at others nightmarish and downright disturbing. Altogether, this is a terrific book with a powerful current of social commentary and an honest, often brutal, dissection of some important issues.

It’s a high ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from this reviewer. I also want to say a humongous thank you to both the author V. Castro, publisher Flame Tree Press, and to NetGalley, for providing the ARC and giving me the chance to read and review it early.

Book Information

Title(s): The Queen of the Cicadas (La Reina de la Chicharras)
Author(s): V. Castro
Publisher(s): Flame Tree Press
Flame Tree Publishing
Original Publication Date: 22nd June, 2021
Page Count: 224 pages
Format Read: Digital
Advance Review Copy (Y/N): Y
Website(s): https://www.flametreepublishing.com/i...
Profile Image for Molly.
197 reviews7 followers
June 22, 2021
The Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro is a blend of urban legend, haunted house, and multi-generational saga, and it packs a punch. Castro hits the ground running, weaving together the stories of Belinda and Milagros, the murdered farm worker. Although both women are flawed and morally gray, they each connect to the reader in their own way. Belinda's story is told in first person, but the narration head-hops a bit not only between her narrative and Milagros's, but also several other points of view. Most only last for a few pages, but it may be disorienting for some readers.

I was really moving through this book for the first half, and Milagros's story was what really made it for me. However, the plot structure and pacing is less than traditional; I really felt like we hit the height of the action quite early, and the denouement takes a significant amount of time. I found my attention lagging in the latter half, but I really think it was the right ending for the story. Perhaps it was not the right choice stylistically, but for the characters, it was the ending they deserved.

Ultimately, I did really enjoy this book. It has its flaws, primarily the pacing and some unrealistic dialogue, but I really enjoyed the ride. I can feel how close this is to the author's heart, and I love seeing that passion hit the page. I'd recommend this to anyone, but especially fans of Tananarive Due's The Good House.


Thank you to the publisher for providing a free ARC via Netgalley. I have tried to stay as unbiased as possible in providing this review.

This is an all-the-good-bits abbreviated review. For my full review, check out my blog, The Library Cryptid.
Profile Image for Becca.
655 reviews59 followers
June 22, 2021
Thank you to Flame Tree Press & Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC of The Queen of Cicadas in exchange for an honest review!

I have finally read a V. Castro book & I am so pleased & cannot wait to pick up more from this author!

When I started The Queen of Cicadas, I was beyond into it. I was flipping digital pages like it was nobody's business. I absolutely loved everything about it, but I guess I'm going to do something out of character & that is to get the negative out of the way first: at a certain point, I kind of fell off. It felt like the book reached its conclusion & it was a good one!! But then it just.. kept going. & I just stopped vibing.

So, that was what kinda dampened the read for me but now let's talk about the good!

I love books with the urban legend aspect & that is definitely found in The Queen of Cicadas. While we're learning about what's going on, so is our main character Belinda. I also love that V. Castro included so much of her culture within the pages! The Queen of Cicadas is definitely an intriguing read.

& Castro's writing is so good. We flash between past and present -- I loved seeing the story of Milagros play out during her time, while also reading how Milagros plays a part in the present with Belinda. These scenes were seamlessly put together.

& the DETAIL. Wow. I was beyond creeped out while reading The Queen of Cicadas which gives V. Castro a million bonus points from me.

Although I had my issues as mentioned above, I do think this is a book that a lot of readers will enjoy!
Profile Image for Rachel Bridgeman.
1,104 reviews25 followers
June 30, 2021
This is the first time that I have read this author, and I am going to get Goddess Of Filth as soon as I can. V.Castro has the voice of female rage, takes it, and authentically entwines it with Mexican folklore, the treatment of displaced people and combines them into a howl of outrage that outlasts the human lifespan.

A dual narrative , set in the now and the 1950's, explores the myth of the Aztec goddess, Mictecacihuatl through the eyes of Belinda, a woman attending a wedding in the farm house where the urban myth of Milagros, a migrant worker, is firmly embedded.

The way that these women are portrayed is vital, and pulsing with rage. The way that Belinda has changed her physical appearance to fight the inevitabilities of ageing, and places a high value on physical attractiveness , throwing herself away on any available man yet unable to care for her own son, is so very apt and modern, whilst in the 1950's, farm worker Milagros, who has risked life and limb to cross the border, needs to disguise her form , wearing men's clothes in order to deflect attention from the odious landowner.

The night of the wedding party, whilst looking for somewhere quiet to drown her sorrows, Belinda is introduced to Milagros' story and becomes even more intrigued as she digs deeper into the past.  The fact that so little has changed in the visibility and concern over the degradation, and lack of opportunities afforded to women of colour is deeply upsetting but a necessary truth that needs to be understood in order to be tackled.

Then, as now, the preying eyes of men and masculine attention lessens the women, especially Latinx women, and reduces them to a consumable product. Neither woman is viewed in their own rights as having any power, intellect or agency to make good decisions by an over riding patriarchy that has no respect for women of colour. What they do not account for, however, is the power of myth, legend and belief in things not of this world, to take vengeance within these time frames.

The underestimating of women is a constant theme throughout history, and the symbolism of being a queen of cicadas, a species which is fascinating for it's revolving life cycle, and it's use as a motif of rebirth, is woven in the fabric of Belinda and Milagros' life.

Richly described, unstinting on the male violence in the pursuit of what they feel is their 'due', and endlessly moving in the way it centers non heteronormative narratives, this is a pure howl of female rage at a world which ignores the voice of women at its' peril.
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