Sunday, March 20, 2022

Of Wordplay and Murder Mystery: Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf [Book Review]

My rating: 5 / 5 ★

The beauty of the game lies in openness; the best players find ways to dance across the board like ballerinas.

TW: Death, trauma/grief, anxiety, mentions of depression.

A brilliant murder mystery that centers around Scrabble with a local hijabi girl as a main character? A BIG FAT YES for me!

Queen of the Tiles follows the story of Najwa Bakri, who returns to her first Scrabble competition a year after losing her best friend. Competing in the Scrabble competition may not be the best idea for her, not when it was the same competition where the said best friend, Trina Low, died unexpectedly. With Trina no longer around to be crowned the Scrabble Queen, Najwa wants more than nothing to gain the title herself, only to honour her best friend.

What starts as a fierce competition filled with exceptional words and the thirst for the throne, immediately turns into a cruel game when Trina's inactive Instagram starts posting again. Cryptic messages and words are posted, hinting that Trina's death may not be an unfortunate circumstance after all. Perhaps there was a murderer, and the person is among the competitors.

I like the fact that each chapter in this book starts with  a word and its meaning to describe the chapter—mind you, these words are difficult ones too and I have never heard of most of them. This element also directly reflects the main character, Najwa, who loves the meaning of the words she uses. It's safe to say that my vocabulary is very limited, and I had fun learning new words from this book.

This book reminds me of Pretty Little Liars, although almost the entire premise is different. It's a perfect example of obsessing over pretty people, toxic relationships and people you cannot trust. You cannot trust anyone in Queen of the Tiles, not even Najwa herself because her trauma caused her to forget the events happening on the day of Trina's death. With her memory of the day hazy, it was difficult to determine the truth.

Our grief may have different symptoms, but deep down it's the same disease after all.”

Queen of the Tiles talks about grief of losing a person dear to you and learning to find your own worth. It exposes readers to toxic relationships as well, where one side overshadows the other, and how destructive this can be to someone. I find myself unable to put down this book, eager for Najwa to solve the mystery of Trina's death. I was awestruck by how brilliantly Najwa swims through this menacing game, how quick she is to figure out the clues and cryptic messages. Albeit the way the 'culprit' was captured felt rather cliche, I still think this book concludes itself pretty well.

If you are into murder mystery with a lot of drama, and a dash of nerdiness to it (in a good way!), please get yourself to pre-order Queen of the Tiles right now! Many thanks to Pansing for sending me the ARC of Queen of the Tiles. This book is set to be published on April 19th 2022, and you do not want to miss it.


Title: Queen of the Tiles
Series: -
Author: Hanna Alkaf
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: April 19th 2022
Pages: 304

Synopsis (Goodreads): 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.


Till next time ♡ Love, Aishah Humaira'

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