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.