Hi everyone! It’s been a little while, I hope 2022 is treating you all well! I’m delighted to be back posting on SWB as part of the blog tour for Benjamin Dean’s new YA thriller The King Is Dead.
Title: The King Is Dead
Author: Benjamin Dean
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
Publication Date: 7th July 2022
This book was received from the publisher in return for an honest review
About The Book…
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets The Inheritance Games in this Black LGBTQ+ royal romp full of heart-swooning romance, scandalous secrets and one hell of a mystery.
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.
James is awoken with the news that his father has passed away. While this would be hard for any teenager James must deal with an additional complication, his father’s passing means he is now the King. As difficult as taking the throne would be for any young man, he must counter not only the fact he is Black, and unknown to the main population gay, he must also deal with the fact somebody is trying to bring him, and perhaps the whole monarchy down.
Now I love a good mystery and Ben absolutely does not disappoint with The King Is Dead. You don’t get much higher stakes that someone seemingly attempting to bring down the monarchy and Ben’s writing is wonderful. New leaks, revelations and suspicions keep coming at a perfect pace to keep you turning pages desperate to know what comes next without leaving the reader feeling overwhelmed with the volume of information being presented. No spoilers from me but I found the conclusion very satisfying, it took me slightly by surprise but felt completely plausible based on what I’d previously read.
Ben also creates a wonderful cast of characters. Starting with the new king, James. I loved James, I think it’s so easy to forget that royalty, or celebrities in general, are human; they’re not just a character that appears in the news to feed our intrigue and need for scandal. With James you’re immediately reminded that he is just a young man who is dealing with his father’s death and taking over a throne that a vocal group of his subjects would much rather he didn’t. I really found James a wonderful character to empathise with as he tries to navigate his first few days on the throne as people both inside and outside the palace walls look to expose the family secrets. I really felt for him as he tried to navigate what must be some of the hardest days of his life to date without knowing who he can trust.
The Queen Dowager, Alexandra is another character I really felt I connected with, perhaps because I am also a woman of colour. Alexandra knew without any doubt there was a section of the population that would never accept her as Queen Consort, especially following on from Catherine, an English Rose murdered just days before she was due to marry the king. Alexandra is far from perfect, but she deals everything with such grace and poise.
Rounding off the immediate family is James’s twin, Edward, younger by just eight minutes those 480 seconds were enough to ensure he would be the spare and not the heir. I get the impression Prince Edward is a little bit of a playboy prince, perhaps a little like a younger Prince Harry. I can certainly imagine Harry having planned the odd party at the palace given half a chance! I think having a ‘spare’ who was so close in age to the heir to the throne added an interesting twist to the book, the concept of what if feeling even more possible than perhaps a larger age gap would allow for.
Quinn Buckley, is the journalist that loves to stir the hatred of the royal family, leaking stories and playing up to those who are against the idea of a Black royal family. I’m not entirely sure if Quinn is openly racist, or just chasing infamy. After all it was his column leaking Catherine’s location before the wedding that resulted in her murder, the public have conveniently forgotten his role in their would-be-queen’s murder. He may well be racist himself, alternatively he may not hold believe in what he’s saying. He simply knows enough racist dog whistles will grow his readership and ensure he becomes a household name and not stop to think for a second, or care about the impact of the stories and the hatred they stoke on the people he writes about. I think the latter might actually be worse, encouraging that level of vileness when you don’t even believe in what you are saying, you simply want the extra readers whoever they may be…
Finally, a quick mention of some of the supporting cast; Gayle, Peter and Jonathan all gave a bit more insight into life in the palace, and what the Crown rather than the person wearing it means to people.
I thought what made this book really standout was the healthy dose of realism throughout it. It is incredibly easily to believe that parts of the press and the general population would easily lead a campaign against a Black King and Queen Dowager. You don’t have to look far to find the stories about the Duchess of Sussex and the associated comments section. Even without the overt racism that can certainly be found, plenty of subtle, and not so subtle examples can be found, whether that’s the Duchess of Sussex being criticised for wearing wide legged trousers while the Duchess of Cambridge is praised for bringing modernity to the royal family by doing the same thing a year or so later, or the comments sections so easily believing stories from anonymous palace insiders because there can’t possibly be smoke without fire. I think Ben’s inclusion of these sorts of elements are really important as it highlights a reality that affects a lot of high-profile minorities.
I really adored this story, Ben had me gripped within the first few pages, such a fantastic mix of mystery, intrigue and a very healthy dose of realism. I just couldn’t put it down as I followed James through his particularly challenging first few weeks as the brand new monarch. Long live the King!
About The Author…
Benjamin Dean is a London-based children’s and YA author, as well as a celebrity and pop culture writer. His debut book, Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow, was a Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
He has interviewed a host of glitzy celebrities, including Chris Pratt and Little Mix, and also broke the news that Rihanna can’t wink (she blinks in case you were wondering). Benjamin can be found tweeting
about books and pop culture at @NotAgainBen
Connect With Ben
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As always if you’ve read the book let me know what you thought! If you’ve not read it yet will my review convince you to pick it up?