Queen of All by Anya Leigh Josephs

Queen of All {The Jena Cycle #1}

Author: Anya Josephs

Genre & Themes: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Young Adult, Coming-of-age

Publication Date: June 8th, 2021

Editor & Publisher: Emily Oliver, Zenith Publishing

Graphic Trigger Warnings: Fatphobia, Internalized fatphobia, homophobia


The only interesting thing about fourteen-year-old Jena is other people. Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, and her best (and only) friend, Sisi, is not just the lost heir to a noble Numbered house, but also the Kingdom’s most famous beauty. Jena herself is just awkward, anxious, and often alone: not exactly heroic material. But when a letter summons Sisi to the royal court, both girls find their own futures, and the Kingdom’s, in Jena’s hands. Sisi, caught between the king and the crown prince, searches for a magical secret the Prince is willing to kill to keep. Jena can save her: but only if she is willing to let her go, maybe forever. It’s hard to do that when she’s in love with Sisi herself.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When you pre-order or purchase through the bookshop.org link I get a small commission.

This review isn’t as negative as it seems.

I’ve added the good points in with the bad, so maybe it won’t seem like I’m ranting.

Here’s what I’m going to go over:

+ An Overview on Jena: How she treats other women, how others treat Jena, how she talks about Sisi, and how she talks about herself
+ A Villain that Made No Sense and whose only crime was faking tension
(this is a spoiler-free review, and some of this section will be in a spoiler tag that you can read if you click on it).
+ In Conclusion

An Overview on Jena: How she treats other women, how others treat Jena, how she talks about Sisi, and how she talks about herself

That title is so long it could be a Fall Out Boy song. Yes, this is the longest section – I’m sorry.

Jena is our MC. Since Queen of All is told in first person, we get to see the world through her eyes…and that ends up being a flaw and a disservice to her character

Every single chapter – I’m not kidding – she mentions how inferior she is in some way. Unfortunately, this is pushed on by her family and literally everyone she comes into contact with. Her family talks down to her and doesn’t think she’s capable of anything. Her best friend Sisi talks down to her. Every stranger who looks at her comments on her size (Jena is a plus-sized MC).

Look, I might have connected with this more when I was 13-14. I might not have even recognized it as self deprecating. But at this point in my life I’m 18 and I feel healthy and happy and I’m just not interested in reading about someone who talks about how they look in every chapter.

On top of that, the way that Jena describes other girls and women is upsetting.

Whenever Jena comes into contact with anyone the first thing she describes is how pretty the other girl is. And if she deems them pretty, one of two things happen:

1) She talks about how Sisi is MORE beautiful. Again.
2) She talks about how much she doesn’t like how she looks, how she can’t do anything, and how much better everyone else is.

One notable example:

“Karili, our instructor, is waiting for us in our chambers. At a glance, I can tell that she us as young, as pretty, and twice as haughty as Patine and Ransi were. “

Queen of All, page 104

As I kept reading…Karili was so sweet? She was there to be their teacher, and Sisi kept antagonizing her (really hate Sisi tbh), but Karili never snapped at them, was never rude, and was never judgmental. When she got flustered, she walked away like an adult.

And this was never something addressed in the text. Jena never realizes she was being presumptuous in the way she hates, and adjusts it. And that bothered me.

In all honesty though, I did like her at the end. And look, I’m not going to say she’s not a well-written character. Because I think she is! She’s just not a character I enjoyed following. In the last 2-3 chapters, she really developed into a character I actually enjoyed enough to (kind of) forgive the rest of the book. She started to be proactive instead of reactive, and that’s the kind of character I like and want to follow. It just took us 20 chapters and an epilogue to get there.

A Villain that Made No Sense and Whose Only Crime Was Faking Tension

I’m putting most of this section in a spoiler tag, but it’s a big irk I had with the book, so if you want to read, be my guest.

Click for Spoilers about Tension So at one point Jena is threatened by the villain of the story, and is warned to keep quiet about it or they’d go after Sisi’s family (as in, kill them). Pretty typical villain behavior. But Jena never tells anyone, and she has literally no reason not to? She never even thinks about it again. She is literally hanging out with THE KING who’s in love with SISI, and she never even thinks about bringing this up? And when her family comes to visit, she doesn’t even think about how close they are to the villain (since he threatened to kill them??) and when Sisi is going to marry the King – the one thing the villain is trying to prevent and has at this point killed over – she STILL doesn’t even think about telling anyone. It’s never mentioned again.
Click for Spoilers About the Villain And for the villain, he literally disappears. He makes some big threats, then barely tries to follow through? He literally disappeared (after given THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY to carry out his evil plan?? Like, I’m not evil but if I was I would have had the perfect opportunity to win here.

In Conclusion

All-in-all, I’m giving Queen of All a 3\5. It might seem high, and I debated giving it a 2\5, but I try to save my one-and-two star ratings for books that I truly hate on some level. And to be honest, I think I’ll read the next books in the series, especially now that Jena is someone I can maybe stand (also she’s a lesbian and I want to see a f\f relationship).

I’m hoping to get the author on my blog for an interview, so cross your fingers for me!

Disclaimer: my review is based on my life experience and reading preferences. It’s not an attack on the author, or others who liked or disliked the book.

Have you read Queen of All? What did you think?

Obviously it was only okay to me, but I would love to know what you think!

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