A teen from the lowest social class is selected as the new queen.
Seriden’s population consists of Royals, Legals, and the Nameless, deprived of basic rights—even wearing clothing belonging to another caste is a potentially execution-worthy offense. Seriden’s ruled by a sovereign who, on their deathbed, names an heir, transferring the royal magic and a crown tattoo. A Nameless grifter who calls herself Coin panics when the king dies and the crown tattoo shows up on her arm, putting her in mortal danger from Royals wishing to usurp her. First seeking simple survival, Coin, by trial and error, figures out what power she has to improve things while also trying to determine how a Nameless could be named heir and why Nameless have been disappearing. Some world mechanics are eventually explained, but the worldbuilding tends toward flimsy. Racial descriptors are largely absent; the focus is on class divisions. The lack of a romantic storyline strengthens the platonic relationships the themes depend on; as outcast Coin weaves a new interpersonal network and explores her ability to belong to society and her obligation to improve it, the result is an empowerment narrative and an appealing family-of-choice focus. While the plot carries a few surprises, it’s marred by a too-obvious villain and too-easy solutions. The strength lies in the characters’ emotional inner lives that help ground the themes which have strong ties to our reality.
Despite underbaked elements, a socially conscious fantasy with appealing themes and tensions. (Fantasy. 12-adult)