I first heard about this book on the goodblackreads Instagram page. It sounded interesting, but I was not prepared for the literary genius I was about to read.
I’m not one to do trigger warnings on books because of its tendency to be used as a form of censorship. But there is a sexual assault and instances of extreme violence in this book that may be too much for some people, especially if they’ve gone through it. But if you are able to get through it, it is soooo worth it.
On the Carribean-colonized planet of Toussaint, it’s Carnival and performers dressed as masked “Midnight Robbers” are entrancing revelers with bewitching words. Young Tan-Tan is dressed as the Robber Queen, her favorite costume to wear at the festival, which is cut short when her corrupted father commits a crime.
Naive Tan-Tan joins her father in exile to the brutal prison world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monsters of myths are real, and humans are the violent outcasts of society. Tan-Tan must use her imagination and become the Robber Queen to survive and set herself free.
I’d hate to say this book is a hidden gem because it came out in 2000 and has probably been on many radars. But since it is my first time hearing of it and reading it, I’m calling it a total freaking gem! One part sci-fi, one part folklore, all parts amazing. It is one of the most complicated and intense books I have read and I mean that in a good way. The book is written in an “Anglo-patois” dialect that forces you to pay attention to what you are reading but the chain of events propels the story with such ease it just glides by. Tan-Tan is such a fun little girl that grows into such a sharp and strong young woman, but the trauma of being ripped from her home and the subsequent journey warp her reality and make her think she’s done something wrong and deserves to be on this prison planet. It’s heartbreaking everytime that “Bad Tan-Tan” voice chimes in to put her down and reminds you that she is just a young girl who has no healthy perspective of right and wrong. She does find a makeshift family and grows a lot which is fun and heartwarming. But there is a bit of a twist at the end that gives you the happy ending you didn’t think you would get.