When your sister murders three hundred people, you can’t help but wonder why—especially if you were one of the intended victims—though I do forgive her, if you can believe it. I tried my best to deny the strength of family ties when everyone was still alive, but now I realize the truth of the cliché: Blood does run thick. Even if poison trumps all.
This opening line of The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao is absolutely devastating. The book starts off by informing readers that our narrator, Gwendolyn, is the only survivor of a mass murder committed by her very own sister. Ready for some twists and turns?
Well . . . don’t get too ahead of yourself. The Majesties has been marketed as Gone Girls meets Crazy Rich Asians, and while I understand the comparison, I don’t exactly agree with it.
The Gone Girl aspect obviously comes from the fact that Gwendolyn’s sister, Estella, murdered their entire extended family and close friends. That, paired with a couple family secrets that we learn about later in the book, and a strange end reveal, fulfill the “thriller” aspect of this story.
The Crazy Rich Asians comparison comes into play because the family is Chinese, living in Indonesia, and owns and operates a number of incredibly successful businesses. They own multiple properties, and take shopping trips in other countries without thinking twice. It’s easy to see the glamour and glitz that surrounds this family.
However, readers who are expecting either of the previous comparisons to be wholly accurate will likely be let down. The majority of this book is told from the perspective of Gwendolyn, as she lay in her hospital bed (in a coma?), trying to figure out what exactly caused her sister to poison their entire family network. As a result, you spend most of the book reading about the family’s history.
I didn’t necessarily think the book was bad, it’s just not what I expected. The prose was well done, and I found myself immersed in the details of the family, but if you’re looking for a succinct ending, you’re not going to get one. The fact that Gwendolyn is recounting details from the hospital poses the question of whether or not any of it is even accurate.
While I think the description may be a bit misleading, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. Readers who enjoy family sagas, or a aspects of domestic thrillers will likely enjoy The Majesties. The family dynamics are complicated, not everyone is telling the truth, and you have to shift through a lot of prose to try and figure out what, exactly, happened.
Thank you to the publisher for an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley. The Majesties comes out on January 20, 2020, and can be purchased wherever books are sold.