Book Review: THE KING IS DEAD by Benjamin Dean

Title in white on dark maroon with throne wrapped in yellow tape above
Genre: Contemporary
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: Standalone

Blurb:

Book cover for THE KING IS DEAD: title in white below yellow tape wrapped throne

James has been a prince all of his life, and since he was born, he’s been thrust into the spotlight as the first Black heir to the throne. But when his father unexpectedly dies, James is crowned king at seventeen. Now, the secrets he could keep as a prince with no real responsibility – namely, his sexuality and hidden relationship – are rocked as his life irrevocably changes.

When his boyfriend suddenly goes missing, the royal secrets and scandals that only he knows start to leak online. And when it becomes clear that whoever is behind the messages isn’t going to stop anytime soon, James begins to question everyone around him.

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

This book is so so good. Scandal, intrigue, and a compelling hero who is getting his secrets blasted all over the front page. From being criticised for grieving to negotiating fracturing relationships, you really feel for this kid who’s been thrust into the spotlight without care for his feeling.

I loved the mystery of who was behind the leaking of secrets to the newspaper, the claustrophobic feeling from not knowing who to trust and the physical invasion into the palace with the letters, the place that’s meant to be safe. It made the uncertainty and feeling of being trapped all the more immediate as there was no safe place and no safe people.

Knowing what some of the secrets were in advance but also not having any advanced warning of others really ratchetted up the tension. You were dreading what the next secret revealed to the press would be – you’d seen the damage done by the previous headlines and knew whatever would come next would be even worse. Partly because we’ve all seen papers build up to big stories, partly because that’s how narrative progression works, and partly because each new revelation was adding to the previous “damage.”

It makes for a very addictive, page-turning story that feels like holding up a mirror to real life and asking us to consider what would really happen if this was real.

The vitriol he was getting felt so awful because it so accurate – we’ve seen it all happen with Meghan Markle (there are even a few references to actual headlines around her and her children.) The newspaper articles are in the book, which I loved. It means you see the language used, the way it’s all couched to appear “reasonable”, focusing on him as a “young, inexperienced boy.” The book shreds that pretence and calls it out for what it is – racism.

I hope we get another YA from Benjamin Dean soon!

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