Review: Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf


13 points

noun: a person or thing that precipitates an event or change

When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.

But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.

As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.

Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf. Published by Salaan Reads / Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2022. Hardback edition, 304 pages. From Malaysia.

Not gonna lie. The cover is what caught my eye first. Absolutely beautiful! I was instantly intrigued by what the story could be. When I read the book blurb, a murder mystery centered around a competitive scrabble tournament, I thought it sounded super fun and unique.

I thought Queen of the Tiles was going to be a lighthearted YA cozy mystery. It didn’t take long to realize this was actually a well crafted, multi-layered story about grief and loss.

This book is a clever and entertaining murder mystery story. Several suspects, secrets and clues to try to decipher. I had no clue (har har har) who to trust! It really did feel like anyone could have been the killer. When the killer is finally revealed at the end, it was an epic ” OH SNAP!!” moment of realization. * Slow clap* Very well done.

This is a very good book. I had a fantastic time trying to figure out the killer. I loved how the characters felt very realistic. Fun scrabble plot wrapped around a story of grief, loss and friendship. I hope more of this authors work is translated to English. I would really enjoy reading something else from her in the future.

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