Review: The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

Categories: Literary Thriller, Mystery

First Publication Date: July 2nd 2018

Synopsis: In this riveting tale about the secrets and betrayals that can accompany exorbitant wealth, two sisters from a Chinese-Indonesian family grapple with the past after one of them poisons their entire family.

Gwendolyn and Estella have always been as close as sisters can be. Growing up in a wealthy, eminent, and sometimes deceitful family, they’ve relied on each other for support and confidence. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor of Estella’s poisoning of their whole clan.

As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this shocking and brutal act. Was it their aunt’s mysterious death at sea? Estella’s unhappy marriage to a dangerously brutish man? Or were the shifting loyalties and unspoken resentments at the heart of their opulent world too much to bear? Can Gwendolyn, at last, confront the carefully buried mysteries in their family’s past and the truth about who she and her sister really are?

Traveling from the luxurious world of the rich and powerful in Indonesia to the most spectacular shows at Paris Fashion Week, from the sunny coasts of California to the melting pot of Melbourne’s university scene, The Majesties is a haunting and deeply evocative novel about the dark secrets that can build a family empire—and also bring it crashing down. 

The Majesties is a book I’ve been kind of avoiding because I thought I’d either love it or hate it, but I finally picked it up – and did NOT regret it. I did end up loving it! This is a literary thriller with such a gripping, addictive plot that I could not put it down and devoured it.

To be completely honest, I did think I would regret picking this up in the first few chapters, when I was mostly confused and did not particularly like the narrator voice (I listened to this in audiobook). The story also seemed to me to be tending towards sensationalist and too dramatic for my taste, but as it went on I was completely won over.

I have seen this being marketed as My Sister the Serial Killer meets Crazy Rich Asians and while I see why one would describe it this way, I think it’s quite misleading – both books have a comedic tone, whereas The Majesties is dark, plus its pacing and writing style are quite different. If you are not familiar with literary thrillers (which I think is not the kind of genre the readers of those two books gravitate towards), then your expectations for this will be quite off. This is closer in pacing and tone to The Body Lies by Jo Baker, The Unseen World by Liz Moore and Little Gods by Meng Jin, in my opinion. I really enjoy literary thrillers, so this was quite an exciting read. The Majesties not only touches on themes that genuinely were very interesting and nicely executed (how racism affects people from different classes differently, the violence in extreme wealth, abuse in marriage, sexism, xenophobia etc), but also the twists were so good – my husband looked at me strangely when I suddenly stopped blogging while listening to this book and stared at the wall open-mouthed for half a minute.

The more I think about this book, the more I am enchanted by it. I absolutely need to re-read it in physical format and I think this is so, so underrated. It’s a pity its marketing does not put this book in the hands of its correct audience – but if you love mysteries, literary thrillers and family secrets books, I think you will love this, especially if you liked any of the books I mentioned that it reminded me of.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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