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

Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m bringing you my review of Curse of the Specter Queen, the first book in the Samantha Knox series, and published earlier this year by Disney-Hyperion. I first saw this book being discussed on bookstagram because of it’s beautiful cover, and became really interested in the idea of a historical fiction mystery, being a fan of all those three things.


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?

I have mixed feelings about this book. There was an air of mystery about it all, it was well paced, the characters were balanced and the book itself well balanced too… but something was just lacking from it. The synopsis makes it sound like there will be far more mystery solving than there actually was; it was mostly crammed into the last few chapters of the book, which was a real disappointment, as I was almost hoping for a historical version of Truly Devious.

Sam as a character grew on me throughout the course of the book. It was obvious that she had a lot to deal with mentally and emotionally, but again, there was something lacking. The book suggested there was a big gap or rift between between Sam and Jo, her childhood best friend, when it seemed far more like there was nothing really there for them to have fallen out over and it was a plot device turned plot hole.

As the mystery itself unfolds, there were twists and turns to keep us guessing, but a lot of it was very obvious. I say that well aware that this comes under the young adult section; however, having read a lot of young adult mystery books, I feel that so much more could have been done with the story itself to keep it moving and keep the reader guessing, all while still fitting the brief of a YA mystery.

The touch of fantasy gave the book an edge, but again, it was almost as if it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. The last five chapters seemed to contain everything and nothing at the same time, and I kept reading, hoping for developments that wouldn’t come.

I was quite disappointed in this book as, quite frankly, I paid a fair amount for it after seeing such positive reviews, and it just didn’t live up to what it was trying to be. I wouldn’t read any more in this series, which again, disappoints me. As always, however, there will be an audience for it, and I wish the author well with this book and future ones.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope this has been an interesting post even if it isn’t the most positive of the reviews I’ve ever written. I post daily, so be sure to come back again for something new!


  1. It is such a shame this book didn’t live up to your expectations! It is absolutely gorgeous and looks like the sort of thing I would love too. Hopefully your next one will be better!


  2. That’s a shame… I was very interested in this one, and I noticed it is quite pricey as well… I’m sorry it was a disappointment. I had the same experience with The Lady Alchemist. It was quite expensive (for a paperback) and it ended up being nothing about alchemy…


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