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Sorcerer Royal #2

The True Queen

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When sisters Muna and Sakti wake up on the peaceful beach of the island of Janda Baik, they can't remember anything, except that they are bound as only sisters can be. They have been cursed by an unknown enchanter, and slowly Sakti starts to fade away. The only hope of saving her is to go to distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal has established an academy to train women in magic.

If Muna is to save her sister, she must learn to navigate high society, and trick the English magicians into believing she is a magical prodigy. As she's drawn into their intrigues, she must uncover the secrets of her past, and journey into a world with more magic than she had ever dreamed.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published March 12, 2019

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About the author

Zen Cho

53 books2,288 followers
I'm a Malaysian fantasy writer based in the UK. Find out more about my work here: http://zencho.org

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 584 reviews
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,588 reviews153k followers
December 9, 2020
2.5 stars
description

She drew in a terrified breath, but before she could scream, she was plunged into darkness.
She drew in a terrified breath, but before she could scream, she was plunged into darkness.Muna, and her sister Sakti, awake on a beach in Janda Baik, an isolated island steeped in magic.

While they cannot remember a thing, they do know something is wrong.

They are cursed.

One sister has wild, untamed magic and the other has none.

Despite Sakti's magic, she is disappearing. Already there is a hole in the center of her body and it's spreading.

Muna convinces her sister to travel to Britain - a great distance from their little island - to meet with the Sorceress Royal.

The journey is long and treacherous.
"There is no reason you should run into any trouble, provided you are sensible."
But the world that awaits Muna is far different from the one she left.
...there is a most unwomanly spirit of independence in you...
Will she save her sister in time? Will she even be able to save herself?

Whelp. At least it's over.

I wasn't a huge fan of the first one and this one was notably better...but it still wasn't a huge hit for me.

THE LANGUAGE - aka excuse me - pardon - sorry - I apologize!

Cho has a very specific way of having her characters speak to emulate a faux Victorian era.
"Oh yes, of course! I am so sorry. What an appalling thing to have happened! You must think us entirely unfeeling. I can only beg your pardon."
...which means that every sentence takes four times as long to get there. Which got really old... REALLY fast.

But at least 1/3 of the book was set outside of Britain... which made me realize that Cho can actually write rather well.

RAMPART SEXISM - aka You. Kitchen. Now.

Because this book has got a Victorian-esque thing going on, there's an insane amount of rampart sexism every time a female so much as glances outside of the kitchen.
"Females meddling in what has nothing to do with them - shameless, depraved and unworthy."
Which really did not work for me.

I'm all for books breaking the metaphorical (or even a literal) glass ceiling... but this was the kind of sexism that you need decades to fix, not a 200ish page YA novel.

I'm not feeling the long haul. I'm not that invested in the series that I actually would care to see it fixed.

LGBTQ+ - aka gotta get those brownie points!

Honestly, the thing that annoyed me the most was the LGBTQ aspect (note: not the man getting with his dragon familiar bit - that part was surprisingly well done).
"In truth," she said, "it is because I could not have you!"
Essentially, one character is in a completely straight relationship the entire time and then flips with 20 pages left, claiming that there was an overwhelmingly romantic same-sex crush on another main character the entire time.

Everyone claims they saw it the entire time, that they are so happy for them and the book ends in a softly glowing happy aura.

I am so tired of authors springing such things upon the audience, claiming they are being inclusive and yet they don't actually include the actual events in the book. It felt so unrealistic and I honestly put the book down in frustration.

2.5 stars because the beginning was honestly enjoyable and there were quite a few things I enjoyed before the book got to be too much for me.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

All quotes come from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication


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Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews185 followers
April 3, 2019
When an author is building a sequel, the path of least resistance is to figure out what the reader wants (or thinks they want) and give it to them. The better option, though, is to write the book readers didn’t know they wanted. That’s what Zen Cho delivers in The True Queen, the standalone sequel to her popular and acclaimed Regency-era fantasy novel Sorcerer to the Crown.
Rather than pick up with the further adventures of Prunella and Zacharias Whyte, The True Queen tells the story of two sisters, Muna and Sakti, who are found by the powerful Malay sorceress Mak Genggang on her home island of Janda Baik. Muna has no magical ability at all while Sakti has an abundance. Both appear to have been cursed, and the suspected culprit carries a surname that readers of Sorcerer to the Crown will be familiar with: Midsomer. Mak Genggang ships the sisters off to England, for Sakti to apprentice under the Sorceress Royal Prunella Whyte, and Muna to keep her sister company. While taking a shortcut through Fairy to their destination, Sakti disappears, leaving Muna to fend for herself when she reaches England. Pretending at having magic while scheming to find a way back into Fairy, Muna befriends Prunella’s schoolmate Henrietta Stapleton, who has trials of her own to face.
The plotting in The True Queen finds the author weaving together several different threads, including a few left dangling at the end of its predecessor. I am impressed by the author’s ability to fashion a satisfying sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown while relegating that novel’s major players to minor rolls. I also found the structure of the novel strikingly democratic, shuffling through a multitude of perspectives from chapter to chapter while still keeping its focus on Muna and her hero’s journey.
The True Queen is just as enchanting as Sorcerer to the Crown and provides ample evidence that this wonderful setting has many novels worth of material for the author to mine from.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Ace Books for the opportunity to read this ARC.
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books427 followers
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February 6, 2022
“I shall lay the path for you. There is no reason you should run into any trouble, provided you are sensible.”

“It sounds perfectly straightforward,” said Sakti, who had never been sensible in her life.”


So What’s It About? (from Goodreads)

“When sisters Muna and Sakti wake up on the peaceful beach of the island of Janda Baik, they can’t remember anything, except that they are bound as only sisters can be. They have been cursed by an unknown enchanter, and slowly Sakti starts to fade away. The only hope of saving her is to go to distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal has established an academy to train women in magic.

If Muna is to save her sister, she must learn to navigate high society, and trick the English magicians into believing she is a magical prodigy. As she’s drawn into their intrigues, she must uncover the secrets of her past, and journey into a world with more magic than she had ever dreamed.”


What I Thought

Between this book, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Sorcerer to the Crown, I have absolutely loved every Regency-era fantasy I have read for this project. Zen Cho has the most delightful, charming writing style and this book was a delight. It features a clever puzzle of a plot, a witty, gentle sense of humor and the absolute sweetest relationships.

One of my favorite things about Sorcerer to the Crown was its meaningful analysis of oppression through the contrasting stories of Zacharias and Prunella each fighting for their place in society. I think there is a little bit less upfront analysis of oppression in The True Queen, and I have to say that I missed it. In exchange, though, there is an emphasis on the importance of relationships between women, from sisterhood to friendships to romances. I loved this, and I was especially a fan of the relationship between Muna and Henrietta.

Although I would have liked their romance to be a little bit less understated, I think it received about the same amount of emphasis as the romance between Zacharias and Prunella in the first book, and I also think Cho did a good job of demonstrating the struggles that Muna and Henrietta faced knowing that they weren’t interested in men but unsure of how to articulate exactly what they do feel in a society that doesn’t even acknowledge that women like them exist. There are some great touches, from Henrietta idolizing the life of a spinster and Muna assuming that Henrietta loves Zacharias.

It turns out that heterosexuality is not hegemonic in Fairy society, and Rollo and Damerell provide an inspiring example for Muna and Henrietta. Rollo in particular is probably my favorite character in the series- he was so charming and hilarious! Prunella was also just as delightful as ever; I think Cho has quite a knack for writing these women who are ambitious and clever and pretty much stone cold, and I think Sakti also joins these brilliant ranks.

Finally, although the book does not not necessarily spend as much time focusing on the intersections between colonialism, sexism and racism as the first book, there are still some very astute touches here. One great example is the double standard surrounding women performing magic in an Eastern and a Western context: the British condone the practice of magic in other British women, while they exoticize and romanticize the practice of magic in women of color from other parts of the world.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
November 27, 2021
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4 ½ stars

Now, this is what I call a great companion novel.

“Relations are a terrible burden to a girl with magical ability.”


It's not easy to describe this series. A mad fantasy romp? A fantasy of manners? A pastiche of 19th-century literature?
I strongly recommend reading Sorcerer to the Crown before embarking on this one. I actually think I enjoyed this novel more because I started this knowing more about Zen Cho's style and magical world.

The story focuses on Muna and her sister, Sakti, both of whom have lost their memory. Waking up after a storm they remember only their names and that they are sisters. The two travel from the island of Janda Baik (where Sakti is trained by the powerful witch Mak Genggang) to England. Sakti however is spirited away during their shortcut through the unseen realm (aka fairyland), and Muna arrives alone to England.
Here we are reunited with familiar faces such as the Sorceress Royal (Prunella!), her husband, Zacharias Whyte, and Henrietta Stapleton (a schoolmate of Prunella).
The novel follows different characters, and Cho easily weaves together their different storylines. Muna remains the central figure of the story and I was utterly absorbed by her determination to rescue her sister.
Along the way, she will have to lie (something she doesn't like to do), accustom herself to a society that is not friendly towards women practising magic or foreigners (more than a few 'respectable' members of the British society throw racist jabs her way), trick a number of magical creatures, and forge an unexpected friendship (some which might blossom into something more).

Cho's pays incredible attention to etiquette and modes of behaviour. She includes a lot of archaic English words (mumchance might be a new favourite) and really brings to life the old British empire without romanticising it. Yes, her world is enchanting but the society she focuses on has very conservative social mores (our protagonists are judged on the basis of their ethnicity, race, sex, and class). Yet, it isn't all gloom and doom! Quite the opposite in fact. Humour and wit underline this narrative and I was smiling throughout.
Do you know that food must only speak when it is spoken to?


Cho combines different mythologies and folklores creating a unique compendium of magical beings and traditions: there are fairies, dragons, lamias, vampiresses, as well as Malaysian spirits and supernatural beings such as weretigers, bunians, and polongs. The unseen realm is richly imagined and I loved the parts set in it (those scenes gave me strong Alice's Adventures in Wonderland vibes).
The more the polong said, the less reassured Muna felt. “But are not spirits famously changeable?”
“I will have you know that is an offensive generalisation,” said the polong. “No one could accuse me of inconstancy.


The way in which magic works in Cho's world is just as interesting as I remembered (more cloud-riding, yay!).
The characters were another delightful aspect of this story. Regardless of their standing (wherever they were old fogeys or angry dragons) they were portrayed in an almost endearing way. Muna was probably my favourite character. I loved the way she looked up to Mak Genggang, her bond with her sister who is in many ways a difficult person to love, and her unwavering sense of duty and her empathy.

This is escapist fiction at its best. It provided me with a brilliant story, an interesting mystery, magic, funny mishaps, balls, a dash of romance, and non-stop entertainment.
“When I have mislaid my things, murder is not my first course of action,” said Prunella. “What I do is look for them—and quite often I find them.”


One of my favourite scenes features a depressed dragon:
“No one ever saw a longer face on a dragon.
He had never been overly fond of the usual draconic pursuits and in the circumstances, they lost all their savour.
At most he might dutifully pick off a unicorn that had wandered away from its herd, but he had not the heart to finish devouring the carcass before his appetite failed him. ”


Another brilliant scene was when Muna told off a bunch of paintings:
“I am a guest in your country, I am entitled to your hospitality, and instead, you hoot like monkeys. You dishonour your white hair by your conduct. Men so old should know better!”


There were so many funny one-liners and exchanges. Muna's quest gives the narrative a fast pace so that we jump from one adventure/mishap to the next. I sincerely hope that Cho will write more books set in this world and if you are a fan of authors such as Susanna Clarke, Neil Gaiman, and Diana Wynne Jones you should definitely give Cho's books a try.
Profile Image for S.A. Chakraborty.
Author 11 books8,944 followers
January 12, 2019
I was fortunate to get an early copy of this book and tore through it this week. What a delightful, fun fantasy about sisterhood! Thoroughly recommended; I loved getting to return to the this world.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 148 books37.5k followers
Read
March 12, 2019
The short version is, if you enjoyed the first book in this series, there is every reason to expect that you will love this one equally.

We open with Muna and her sister Sakti waking bewildered on a beach in Janda Bail. Mal Genggang takes them in, training Sakti while Muna helps in the kitchen. Unfortunately both of them are cursed, and end up having to travel to England, via the Unseen Realm, to get help.

Only Sakti disappears, leaving Muna to cope with England's new Sorceress Royal, as well as finding her sister, on her own.

Prunella is back (with glimpses of Zacharias), and just as much fun as she was in the first book. Henrietta is wonderful, and watching her relationship with Muna was such a joy--that was the strength of an otherwise fairly predictable plot. Not that predictable is a bad thing. Sometimes it's fun to watch everything unfold as expected, especially if you enjoy the relationships building along the way, as here.

In short, a light-hearted, fun and diverse, gay-friendly Regency fantasy romance.

Copy provided by NetGalley



March 13, 2020
I'm undecided on the ultimate rating on this. I think it's between 3.5 and 4.0 stars. I didn't quite love it as much as Sorcerer to the Crown. I feel like it was a very good story and the characters were interesting, but they weren't quite as compelling as Zacharias and Prunella. The audiobook was good, and I feel like I buzzed through it in about 1.5 weeks (which is fast for me with an audiobook since I only tend to listen to the CDs in the car). The world-building from the first novel is sort of assumed for this one. There's no particular recap on all of that. The story pretty much starts from where it finished with the first book. This book centers on a pair of sisters from Janda Baik (an specific island in the Malay Archipelago) who don't know much about their past and end on a quest of self-discovery. Muna's a lot more developed than Sakti, and her friendship with Henrietta is pivotal to this story. I can't say anymore because it's spoilerish. I do wish that more time had been spent exploring that relationship. As with the first book, I enjoyed the Regency Magic motifs. I liked the fact that this book shows more of the Unseen Realm aka Faerie, but I could use even more of that.

I guess I was so in love with the first book that I was slightly underwhelmed with this book. But it's a good book, well written. I think I would have liked more time with the characters and development into their stories. Muna is a good character, very likable, somewhat subdued, but she isn't as magnetic as Prunella or Zacharias, so I felt that vacuum in the story. Having said that, I loved the multiculturalism and diversity in this book.

Will I continue this series if there's more? Oh yes!
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
1,985 reviews2,584 followers
April 9, 2019
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2019/04/09/...

It has been three and a half years since I read Sorcerer to the Crown and I was initially a bit worried about how much I remembered of the story and whether it would impact my experience with this sequel. Happily, when the blurb to The True Queen became available, it appeared that the focus would be on a new set of characters.

Indeed, while a few familiar names from the first book will crop up every now and again, indubitably the stars of the show here are a pair of sisters named Muna and Sakti. The girls’ journey together first began off the coast of the island of Janda Baik, after a storm washed the two of them ashore with no memory of who they were. The powerful witch and protector of the island, Mak Genggang, found them and took them in. Sakti, endowed with magic, immediately came under the witch’s tutelage, although that relationship remained strained. Muna, meanwhile, is magic-less, but has a much more favorable opinion of Mak Genggang.

However, one day Sakti approaches Muna with irrefutable evidence that they have been cursed—in the middle of the former girl’s torso is a void that will keep spreading as she fades away. Desperate, the sisters take it upon themselves to identify who cast the curse, but instead they wind up nearly causing a diplomatic crisis. To smooth things over, Mak Genggang decides to send Sakti and Muna abroad to meet with Prunella Wythe, Britain’s new Sorcerer Royal, who has also opened a magical school for girls. There, they will present themselves as a pair of international students, but also search for more clues as to who cursed them. But unfortunately, the quickest way to their destination is through the dangerous realm of faerie, and while two girls departed Janda Baik, only Muna emerges safely on the other side in London and Sakti is feared lost forever.

Similar to the first book, The True Queen explores the themes of racism and oppression. Apparently, despite the fact it is a woman who currently holds the prestigious office of Sorcerer Royal, attitudes towards women wielding magic have not changed that much since we last visited this world in Sorcerer to the Crown. “Proper ladies” simply did not involve themselves with the thaumaturgical arts, and thus even Prunella, who has come so far since the previous novel with her newfound wealth and status, still has to fight hard to be heard. And of course, this time we also have the perspective of a foreigner newly arrived in Regency-era Britain. Overwhelmed by the strange rigid rules of this hierarchical society, Muna finds herself simultaneously vaunted and condescended to by the upper class, and even those with the best intentions are sometimes guilty of prejudgment or lack of sensitivity.

But in many ways, The True Queen is also a very different book than its predecessor. When it comes to the plot, I don’t know that it captured my attention with the same combination of unique aspects and magical allure as the first book did. Yes, the beginning sections intrigued me with the introduction of the vivid characters of Muna and Sakti and the fascinating story of how they ended up with Mak Genggang, followed by the kerfuffle in the faerie realm which resulted in Muna alone in England meeting with Prunella and the women of the magical school by herself. Likewise, the final chapters were hard to put down because of the drama and suspense surrounding the conclusion. Where I felt the story faltered, however, was everything in between. Pacing was part of the problem, which slowed as we switched tack from worrying about Sakti to focusing on the “fantasy of manners” elements of the world. In fact, one thing that really turned me off was the general lackadaisical attitude towards Sakti’s plight, and I was especially disappointed in Prunella and Henrietta’s dismissiveness and horrible bedside manner in response to Muna’s concerns. It’s also hard not to feel that Muna was the less interesting sister. From the start, it was clear Sakti was the more forceful personality, being more strong-willed and impulsive than her meeker and more pensive sibling. Even though Muna is the at the center of this story, she had a way of being overshadowed by the supporting characters.

Overall, The True Queen was a solid read, even if it didn’t quite reach the heights of Sorcerer to the Crown. Simply put, there were no surprises this time around in that I found many elements of the plot predictable and the central character was probably the least interesting to me. That said, I had a good time catching up with some of the wonderful people I met in the first book and it was a delight to be back in this world.
April 25, 2022
There is a Despicable HEA of Doom and Destruction at the end of this book and yet, I survived. And, miraculously enough, so did the book. Shock! Dismay! Discombobulation!



Just like that, yes.

A good thing Zen Cho saved the day by adding lots of unwillingly hilarious, batshit crazy dragons, hahahahaha, brainstorming material aplenty (at the last count I had about 10,000,000 theories about the plotline), a scrumptiously diverse cast of characters, severed heads galore and people-eating to her story. Hadn't this been the case, I probably would have DNFed the fish out of this book. Around the 99.99% mark. Right after the HEA of Doom and Destruction.

· Book 1: Sorcerer to the Crown ★★★★
· Book 2.5: Winter Sojourn · to be read
Profile Image for Jennifer.
411 reviews164 followers
September 19, 2021
Who knew that a mix of Regency society, dragons, Malaysian magic, and Sapphic heroines could be so dull? Sorcerer to the Crown has been on my TBR list forever, but I came across a copy of The True Queen and heard that it could be read more or less independently, so I figured I'd give the world and this author a try.

It started out okay. Two sisters, Muna and Sakti, wake up on a tropical island with no memory (sigh) except a sense that they have been wronged. Turns out they're under a curse that even the powerful witch Mak Genggang cannot lift. En route to England, Sakti is magically kidnapped, leaving Muna to navigate high society and even more alarming magical worlds without her.

The early parts based on Malaysian culture and folklore are fun, but things grind to a halt once Muna gets to England. I like the Regency period, but Zen Cho's version of it is curiously mincing - it's both wordy and lacking in any sense of urgency or danger, even when there are dragons.

"Like as not your mother would declare war if you ate him, and we cannot afford a civil conflict in Threlfall now. You had best restrain your cannibalistic instincts, Rollo, though they do you credit. You may have the carcass if Bartholomew dies, but if he does wake you must let him alone."

All righty then. And this is what passes as humor:
"Her Majesty desires the death of all kinds of people, some of the very finest consideration. Of course, it is only natural you should have joined those ranks once you stole her Virtu."

Prunella gaped. "The Fairy Queen accuses me of a theft of her virtue? [...] But I have never met the Queen in my life!" said Prunella. "Besides, I thought only gentlemen could deprive others of their virtue. Surely a lady only loses hers."

Zacharias cleared his throat. "I believe His Excellency means that the Fairy Queen has lost an article of virtu." He turned to the fairy. "Have I understood you, sir?"


The contrast between tone and content is frequently absurd, eyeroll-inducing where it intends to be funny. Marriages-of-convenience plots sit uneasily with dynastic dragon scheming. Maybe Regency England and magic aren't the best mix after all.

It doesn't help that the foreshadowing in The True Queen is as subtle as a bludgeon. Even I guessed most of the major twists early on, and I'm not good at mysteries. The title alone is a significant spoiler given even a little knowledge of what's going on.

Characterization is slight to the point that I confused Muna's name with a local transit system in a first draft of this review, the multiple perspectives are frequently boring, the romance is entirely chemistry-free, and I put this book down fifty pages before the end to go do some dishes. I hate dishes.

Not a winner for me, and I'm no longer sure I want to read the first book.
Profile Image for Elevetha .
1,721 reviews165 followers
June 21, 2021
Pre:



Post:

Ah disappointing. Predictable as feta. This bugged me, even if that wasn't meant to be a secret, maybe it should have been. And no, not the biggest fan of the relationships in this one.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,552 reviews1,632 followers
March 28, 2019
First of all, on the one hand this was a good follow up to Sorcerer to the Crown, which took pretty much everyone by surprise several years ago. It was like a little breath of fresh air, a light fantasy full of people of color in a setting people of color don't normally inhabit in fiction (Regency England), taking on existing power structures and being all clever and wonderful. This book continues that tradition (this time with an emphasis on kindness, identity, and power structures).

At the same time, one of the things I liked most about the first book is that I couldn't predict where it was going, its specific twists and turns. In fact, I am largely terrible at predicting reveals, and I prefer it that way. I am most author's preferred reader, sitting back semi-passively waiting for the book to have its way with me (unless something gross or wrong or poorly written pulls me out of that, and then I am of course capable of critical thought). I *love* when books happen to me. It's my favorite. And this book did not really do that, for all that it was a good time and I grew to like the characters quite a bit (and enjoyed revisiting my favorites from the last book: Prunella, Rollo, Damerell, Mak Genganng, though there was a weird lack of Zacharias).

(FYI I will not be talking about the plot at all except in spoiler tags because maybe when you read this you will not be able to guess what's coming like I did and I would like that for you.)

So on the one hand, I literally predicted almost all of the reveals, including the big one right from the first page. But on the other, I liked the characters, the setting, the dialogue, the romance subplot (f/f), and I thought the climax was actually very satisfying, even though it didn't really hold any surprises for me.

Let's talk about all the reveals I predicted:



And, I mean, part of my discomfort with this is that I'm not 100% sure that I wasn't *meant* to predict some of them? So I can't entirely condemn the book for that without knowing for sure.

Anyway, I still think this book is worth reading, especially if you liked the first book, though this could theoretically stand on its own as well since it has a different set of main characters.

[3.5 stars, rounded up because I can]
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,969 followers
April 2, 2019
as posted on The Book Smugglers :

I can’t believe it’s been four whole years since the delightful Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho knocked my socks off and charmed my cold, cold heart. Never mind, we have now been blessed with The True Queen, a companion novel set in the same world but featuring different protagonists which can be read as a stand-alone . BUT should it be read as a stand-alone, inquiring minds want to know? Of course not, why on earth would you do this to yourself?

BUT I DIGRESS.

It opens not in England but on the island of Janda Baik, in Malaysia, where sisters Muna and Sakti wake up one day memoryless on a beach, having been cursed by an unknown personage. The powerful local witch Mak Genggang takes the two girls under her wing for protection, specially when Sakti proves to be an incredibly prodigious magician herself. Muna is just… Muna: loyal sister and Mak Genggang’s devout servant. But when whatever curse they are under starts to make Sakti literally fade away little by little, the two sisters decide to take matters into their own hands and discover that whomever cursed them probably lives in England. Maybe.

So off they go to England, where the Sorceress Royal Prunella and her unique school for magic women are waiting for Sakti (and Muna). But the way there is through Fairyland where Sakti finds herself trapped. To save her sister and find out a way to break the curse, Muna has to go England alone.

But what can Muna possibly do? She of no magic and of no consequence?

MEANWHILE. Breaking news: England and the Sorceress Royal are in trouble against Fairy. It looks as though someone has stolen some sort of powerful talisman from the Fairy Queen? And she will kill everybody in England if it’s not returned to her. Pronto.

Well, you know what comes next. YES, THAT’S RIGHT: a delightful take on power that also engages with racism, colonialism and misogyny. FUN TIMES. But also a delightful story that features double crossing, heists, an adventure into Fairyland starring odd couple Muna and Prunella’s best friend Henrietta Stapleton.

A MOMENT OF YOUR TIME:

I interrupt this review to introduce: MISS HENRITETTA STAPLETON. Devoted daughter, sister and BFF. Secret!Magic!User and a secret teacher (against her family’s wishes) at the school with a quiet voice and a quiet demeanour who is like: Yes, father, I shall marry this man I do not WILL NOT EVER love so I can save our family from financial ruin. Yes, Prunella, truly, you are right Prunella *proves Prunella wrong*. Also: “my family has no idea I am a witch, I shall create this uniquely amazing spell who will create A DOUBLE to take my place while I go off on this dangerous adventure with this intriguing young lady I may or may not have a crush on”.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION.

Moving on, although it’s very clear who Muna and Sakti are from the very beginning, this is not the point of the story as this is not a book (or a series) to rely on “twists”. It’s all in the journey, in the thoughtful way it engages with sisterhood and love and empowerment, and to the uses of magic, especially who gets to use it and how. And all that, it does really well.

You may be asking yourself: but what about Prunella and Zacharias, do they show up at all? Well, yes, dear reader, they have resplendent cameos, specially Prunella who remains her usual practical self.

The True Queen is an adventure novel, a comedy of manners and errors featuring queer dragons and queer women, tons of delightful (oh, oops, there goes this perfectly suited word again) dialogue and a super sweet romance between two women.
Profile Image for Samantha Shannon.
Author 21 books17.5k followers
January 26, 2019
A sheer delight from beginning to end. Zen Cho perfectly conjures the opulence, absurdity and conflict of the period, and her magical societies are so wholly interwoven with history that you’ll start to believe there really was a Sorceress Royal – and that centuries ago, you really could travel through Fairyland from one side of the world to the other.
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews232 followers
March 23, 2019
Do you want a delightful and charming Regency-era fantasy novel with a diverse cast and a f/f romance subplot? A story focused on sisterhood? Dragons with manners? Then you need to read The True Queen, a loose follow-up to Zen Cho’s previous novel, Socerer to the Crown!

Muna and Sakti wake up on the beach of Janda Baik, knowing only their names and that they’re sisters. They quickly learn that they’ve been cursed by an unknown sorcerer — Muna’s lost her magic, and Sakti has started to fade away. Clues lead them to believe that the answers lie in England, so Muna and Sakti head to visit Sorceress Royal’s academy for female mages. But along the way, they run into trouble, and it’s now up to Muna to save her sister.

Just like it’s predecessor, The True Queen is a gem of a novel, sparkling with humor and brimming with heart. Multiple sections made me laugh out loud, and I kept reading bits and pieces out to anyone around me. I’m so glad this book exists. If you haven’t read Socerer to the Crown, I think you could read The True Queen without it (although the first book is wonderful too). The protagonists of the first book only appear in supporting roles here, and the plot of The True Queen stands on its own.

Of course, the events in The True Queen are influenced by what came before. As Muna’s staying at the school for female mages (and desperately pretending to have magic herself), you see the struggle of getting English society to adapt to magical women. One of the other major characters, Henrietta, is a teacher at the school and lying to her family about it, trying to avoid their disapproval.

I guessed some of the book’s plot twists but it still had plenty of surprises in store for me. Besides, the pleasure was in the journey more than the destination. I love Cho’s writing and the world she presents, a Regency England infused with magic and where multiculturalism is actually recognized. And have I mentioned the dragons? I love dragons, and this book has QUEER DRAGONS. It doesn’t get any better than that.

When I first read The True Queen, I immediately popped onto Twitter to scream about how I’d just read the sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown and how it was amazing and had queer Malaysian witches. This book made me so happy, and I’m glad it’s releasing soon so everyone else can read it too!

I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.

Review from The Illustrated Page.
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,670 reviews853 followers
May 29, 2020


Trigger warnings for .

Representation: Muna (mc) Malay, Muslim & sapphic; Sakti (sc) is Malay; Henrietta (li) is a lesbian; Prunella (sc) is Indian-English; Zacharias (sc) is Black; mlm couple.

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Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,095 reviews1,131 followers
April 30, 2019
3.5 stars

This is a light, fun fantasy very much in line with its prequel, Sorcerer to the Crown. I’d forgotten most of that one, which was fine because this is a new story with a new set of protagonists, though with some overlap in characters. It begins with sisters Muna and Sakti, who wake up on a beach in Malaysia with no idea who they are – but who soon learn that they’ve been cursed. Muna makes her way to Regency England, but Sakti is stolen away to the Fairy Court, leaving Muna responsible for rescuing her.

It’s a quick, entertaining, and at times humorous read, though the plot meanders a bit in the first half and only really picks up in the second. In a neat trick, all of the most important characters in the book, heroes, villains, and mentors alike, are female – a nice touch in a genre where female characters are still noticeably in the minority, and done without lampshading, so that I only realized this at the end. There’s also some racial and cultural diversity; in another nice touch, Muna and Sakti are clearly Muslim, without the author making a big deal of it. And yes, there's a lesbian subplot, but it's so understated that if you're reading just for that, you may be disappointed.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for deep and complex characterization, this is not your book. This is fun escapist reading, an unambitious novel that sets out to entertain and then does exactly that. Early on I found myself wanting more depth, but by the end I was happy with what it was and wished I could find more books like this – books that are lighthearted and enjoyable without being stupid. I’d recommend it, though best to start with the first book to avoid being spoiled.
Profile Image for lady h.
639 reviews182 followers
May 24, 2019
This book is even better than the first, because while the first must necessarily plod through a bunch of exposition, this one jumps right into the action, even if said action is happening halfway across the world from London. The story revolves around the mystery of two Malaysian sisters who wash up on a beach in Janda Baik, with no memory of who they are or where they've come from. Taken in by Mak Genggang, illustrious witch, they eventually decide they need to go to London to discover the mystery of their origins.

I don't really have much to say, except that this book inspired the same feelings of whimsy and delight as the first one did. I enjoy plenty of books, but it's rare that I find one that genuinely sparks joy like Zen Cho's novels do. The characters are all delightful - Prunella and Zacharias make frequent cameos, though they are not the main characters. Henrietta, a very minor character in the first book, becomes a major character in this particular installment. The writing is just as witty and tongue-in-cheek as ever; there were so many lines that had me doubled over, laughing, at the sheer, dry wit. There's also a sapphic relationship! The pacing is superb - I couldn't put this book down, and yet it never felt like it was going too fast. There are ebbs and flows to the narrative that allow the reader to take a step back and absorb everything that's happened without actually breaking from the flow of the story.

I literally have nothing to criticize. This was so much damn fun.
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews531 followers
April 1, 2019
From TenaciousReader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2019/0...

I have to be honest, this is a hard review to write. I loved the first book, Sorcerer to the Crown, and as such, I think my expectations for this one were pretty high.

I have seen it mentioned that this book can be read as a standalone, and I want to give my opinion on that a bit. It is set in the same world as The True Queen, but focuses on a new set of characters. The story is such that it can feel self contained and really does not depend on knowledge from the first book, so in that sense it works. You absolutely could read this without reading Sorcerer to the Crown. But while I completely agree that this can be read independent of Sorcerer to the Crown, I also feel like you may get spoilers for the fate of the main characters in Sorcerer to the Crown if you were to read this one first. So I would caution you to read the other book first if you think that finding out where the main characters from that book wind up would ruin your reading experience. They are not primary characters in The True Queen, but they are involved and appear and you would definitely get some idea of how Sorcerer to the Crown ends if you read this one first. So yes, I will agree this can be read without reading the first and I don’t think it would lessen your enjoyment of this book. But I do think that reading this book and then reading Sorcerer to the Crown could potentially negatively impact your reading experience for Sorcerer to the Crown. My advice would be read the other book first.

The story starts off with two sisters who awake on a shore, with no memories. I have to admit, I find amnesia as a plot device (or element) to be very hard to get in to. I find it misses way more than it hits the mark for me. In this case, it made me a bit apprehensive, but I certainly didn’t write off the book. It’s not something that always fails for me, there have been some books that I have thought were amazing and the amnesia component worked well. It just tends to be the exception more than the rule for me, and unfortunately, I don’t think this book is an exception. I was not intrigued but the amnesia component like I feel like I should have been.

As Muna and Sakti begin their journey, they realize Sakti is slowly disappearing. Muna is left trying to find a way to save her sister, navigate life at court and prove herself as a magician. Of course there are characters determined to see her fail. I do enjoy seeing characters standing up and proving themselves beyond other’s expectations for them. It’s always a thrill, so from that perspective I was rooting for her.

Another area that I think I struggled with was the actual characters. I won’t say there is anything wrong with them, per se, but with Prunella in Sorcerer to the Crown, I just fell in love with reading her almost immediately. Her personality was just exciting for me and I found myself rooting for her from the very beginning. I did not find much of a connection with any of the characters in this one, much less that feeling I had with Prunella.

But it was not all bad. I do enjoy the regency setting as well as seeing characters break through other’s expectations. It’s just that the pros were not enough for me or they came too late in the book for it to really recover from the shaky start. I’ve seen many other reviews (most reviews) have a more positive experience with this book, so if you enjoyed the first one, I would definitely encourage you to try it (and I hope you will not have the same hang ups I did). If you have not read the first one, I would recommend you give that one a try first.
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews531 followers
April 18, 2019
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2019/0...

I have to be honest, this is a hard review to write. I loved the first book, Sorcerer to the Crown, and as such, I think my expectations for this one were pretty high.

I have seen it mentioned that this book can be read as a standalone, and I want to give my opinion on that a bit. It is set in the same world as The True Queen, but focuses on a new set of characters. The story is such that it can feel self contained and really does not depend on knowledge from the first book, so in that sense it works. You absolutely could read this without reading Sorcerer to the Crown. But while I completely agree that this can be read independent of Sorcerer to the Crown, I also feel like you may get spoilers for the fate of the main characters in Sorcerer to the Crown if you were to read this one first. So I would caution you to read the other book first if you think that finding out where the main characters from that book wind up would ruin your reading experience. They are not primary characters in The True Queen, but they are involved and appear and you would definitely get some idea of how Sorcerer to the Crown ends if you read this one first. So yes, I will agree this can be read without reading the first and I don’t think it would lessen your enjoyment of this book. But I do think that reading this book and then reading Sorcerer to the Crown could potentially negatively impact your reading experience for Sorcerer to the Crown. My advice would be read the other book first.

The story starts off with two sisters who awake on a shore, with no memories. I have to admit, I find amnesia as a plot device (or element) to be very hard to get in to. I find it misses way more than it hits the mark for me. In this case, it made me a bit apprehensive, but I certainly didn’t write off the book. It’s not something that always fails for me, there have been some books that I have thought were amazing and the amnesia component worked well. It just tends to be the exception more than the rule for me, and unfortunately, I don’t think this book is an exception. I was not intrigued but the amnesia component like I feel like I should have been.

As Muna and Sakti begin their journey, they realize Sakti is slowly disappearing. Muna is left trying to find a way to save her sister, navigate life at court and prove herself as a magician. Of course there are characters determined to see her fail. I do enjoy seeing characters standing up and proving themselves beyond other’s expectations for them. It’s always a thrill, so from that perspective I was rooting for her.

Another area that I think I struggled with was the actual characters. I won’t say there is anything wrong with them, per se, but with Prunella in Sorcerer to the Crown, I just fell in love with reading her almost immediately. Her personality was just exciting for me and I found myself rooting for her from the very beginning. I did not find much of a connection with any of the characters in this one, much less that feeling I had with Prunella.

But it was not all bad. I do enjoy the regency setting as well as seeing characters break through other’s expectations. It’s just that the pros were not enough for me or they came too late in the book for it to really recover from the shaky start. I’ve seen many other reviews (most reviews) have a more positive experience with this book, so if you enjoyed the first one, I would definitely encourage you to try it (and I hope you will not have the same hang ups I did). If you have not read the first one, I would recommend you give that one a try first.
March 13, 2019
Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.

The True Queen is the sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown, one of my all time favorite books. I know many think this is a companion novel as the book focuses on different characters based on the synopsis but beware that you are best to read this after having read Sorcerer to the Crown. In ways it deals still with the backlash of what happened in Sorcerer to the Crown and we get a lot of relationships and characters from that novel in this one.

With that out of the way, The True Queen is an altogether different book from Sorcerer to the Crown. Where in the first book we dealt with Zacharias and Prunella’s places in society, in this book we deal with two sisters who don’t even know who they are. It is a different story about finding out who you really are. I didn’t love this as much as I loved Sorcerer to the Crown but overall it is still a really good book.

One of the reasons why I didn’t end up loving this book is because I guessed the plot twist very early on. And at about 75% I was about ready to bash everyone’s head in for not having guessed it yet. Clearly they needed more of Zacharias council but he was very much on the sidelines in this book (one that I am sad about).

Another reason is that this book switches around in point of views a lot. Some characters only having one, maybe two point of views throughout the whole book where I wondered if it was really necessary to get their view on those situations.

Having said all that however I just really enjoyed being back in this world. I loved seeing a bit of Janda Baik at the start and I would love to see a book set there (but then this series is called sorcerer royal so bloody unlikely). I loved seeing Prunella being petty with all of the English magicians and throwing in their face her position of Sorceress Royal. I loved getting to know Henrietta more and seeing a slight focus on her relationship with Prunella.

Muna was interesting though it took some getting used to her. I found her sister incredibly grating and I was glad she wasn’t there for most of the book . I loved the relationships that Muna build with those around her, especially Henrietta. Her priorities shifted throughout the book, and I was pleased to see that at the end she still retained that new bit of her. And hey, that last chapter, totally on board for that!
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,199 reviews188 followers
June 23, 2019
If you haven’t read Sorcerer to the Crown, you should definitely read that first before jumping into The True Queen, not because the books can’t stand alone, but because they’re both so delightful you owe it to yourself to read them both. (We named our cat, Prunie, after Prunella Gentleman from Sorcerer to the Crown!) In this follow-up novel, Muna and Sakti are sisters who washed up on a beach with no memory of where they came from. They’re taken in by a powerful magician, but even her magic can’t restore their memories. When Sakti starts fading away before Muna’s eyes, the sisters undertake a dangerous journey through Fairy to England, where they hope the Sorceress Royal will be able to help them. Cho is a lovely writer, and the fantasy world she’s created is one I love getting lost in.
Profile Image for Shruthi.
279 reviews19 followers
March 14, 2019
I feel like this book just taps into everything I love: historical romps, romcom tropes, dragons, fun fantasy worldbuilding, excellent comedy, and great female characters. This was as On Brand for me as its prequel and I loved it to bits.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 74 books933 followers
November 14, 2019
Bright and sparkly and SO much fun. I loved it even more than Sorcerer to the Crown (and although they're set in the same world, you can certainly read this one first).
Profile Image for Liz Mc2.
305 reviews19 followers
April 11, 2019
I thought the first part dragged a bit and most of the plot developments could be seen a mile away, but I did not care because Cho's world is so delightful and well-realized. I stayed up too late finishing this on a night when I needed distraction. I liked seeing more of Mak Genggang and having a Malaysian heroine. Muna is great, both ordinary and extraordinary. Partway through I realized that men had barely any page time and the book is all about sisterhood and friendship, and I found that refreshing. Really hope there will be more books set in this world.
Profile Image for retro.
334 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2020
Not sure this works as a standalone, so if you haven't read Sorcerer to the Crown, it might seem a bit disjointed. As someone who read the first novel in the series (trilogy? duology?) four years ago and didn't think to go for a refresher before picking this one up, I was a bit lost. And disappointed.

Characters from the first book show up pretty early on in this one and the bulk of the plot takes place in England, at the same Academy that is in large part the setting of the first novel. Moreover the action, in terms of the England stuff, picks up right where the first book left off, which may work best if you read the two one right after the other. I didn't, so I had some issues remembering where we were and what was going on.

I did remember that one of the issues I had with the first book was that I found the plot very slow-moving until about the 40% mark, or whenever Prunella shows up and takes the reins of the narrative from Zacharias. Prunella shows up in this one, too, but she's more of a background character and there isn't really anyone who serves the same function here as she did in the first book.

Muna is alright. I wouldn't call her passive, but she's very much a stranger in a strange land who would like all these people to just get out of her way so she can find her sister. This makes the story a bit frustrating, at times, as it seems we're either waiting with Muna for help/the opportunity to go focus on the A plot, or fussing over the B plot, which, since it concerns characters from book 1, is a bit dull.

About two thirds of the way into the story, Muna and her sidekick Henrietta finally make it to Fairy and the plot picks up. There's a sense of forward momentum, they meet the Big Bad, and all the waiting seems like it's going to pay off. At this point, I was set to give the book three stars. But then the action comes to a screeching halt, the girls are catapulted back to England for more sitting around/talking/fretting over balls. More damning yet, a side character literally poofs into existence and explains the plot to the characters and the reader.

Now I might have been okay with this if there really was some unexpected twist, but there isn't. One character even figures it out in a previous chapter only for the answer to be dismissed by the protagonist. And then we have a scene where we discover that, no, actually it's exactly what we were told before, exactly what anyone even half paying attention to the plot would already know.

A boss fight ensues and it's. It's fine. There's screaming civilians and wands being waved around and some clever quipping, and I could just about imagine the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts special effects. Unfortunately, I was so emotionally disengaged by this point that even the big moment when Muna does A Thing didn't really land for me. Plus, a truly horrific thing happens right in front of Henrietta and I was expecting it to have some sort of impact, but no, a chapter later she's making plans to visit Fairy and all is hunky-dory.

This is not a badly-written book, strictly speaking, and there are some interesting ideas, but I suspect a lot of the goodwill I had toward it stems from my half-remembered enjoyment of the first book. This sequel pretty much squanders it.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
2,998 reviews796 followers
February 20, 2019
Henrietta smiled. Having started she could not seem to stop, and there seemed no call to try, for Muna smiled back.


On my blog.

Rep: Malay mcs, wlw mcs, black side character, half Indian mc

Galley provided by publisher

I read Sorcerer to the Crown back in 2015 and I don’t think it’s that much of an exaggeration to say I’ve been waiting an age (3 years and 2 months) for this book. And it was totally worth the wait. I’m going to say it right now: this is probably one of the best books I’ll read all year.

The True Queen introduces two completely new characters to this world, Muna and her sister Sakti. When they wake up on a beach in Janda Baik with no memory of their past and who they are, Mak Genggang takes them in. But it turns out that they’re both cursed by some spell and in trying to discover who put the curse on them, they are forced to travel to England, via the Unseen Realm. Sakti gets lost along the way, and Muna shows up on the Sorceress Royal’s doorstep alone and with only one desire: to rescue her sister from Fairy Land.

One of the things I loved most about this book was how quietly magical it was. You know, like magic slipping into the world more on the fringes than it being an epic fantasy level magic. Yes, there was a magic system and it wasn’t wholly understated but it was still quietly magical if that makes sense. And it fits so well into the historical setting.

The second thing I loved was the characters. Muna and Henrietta are both great characters and I loved them and their relationship so much. I don’t know how to describe how much I adored them, which is always a good sign. And the surrounding side characters are also great. Particularly Zacharias and Prunella, obviously, because they were the initial reason I wanted to continue this series. I kind of wish there had been more of Zacharias because he was my favourite from the last book, but I also didn’t need any more because of all the new characters. Prunella grew on me more in this book too. I’ll admit I wasn’t her biggest fan in book 1 (past me was foolish), but I loved her in this one.

I also really really loved that this book was f/f. Because I’m always craving good f/f historical fiction, and this one satisfied that. (And there’s nowhere near enough of it.)

One thing I will note briefly: it’s fairly easy to predict where the plot is going on the whole, once you learn the right information. But it’s got a great, slowburning unfolding of the plot, so that felt more like an oh moment for the reader rather than actual predictability.

So yeah. In summary: read the book please. (And also Sorcerer to the Crown, because that’s amazing too.)
107 reviews
December 28, 2019
To say this book has a f/f romance subplot is an overstatement. At best, it contains 1 (one) haphazard f/f kiss. There is nothing save the last chapter to actually show the building of the relationship. It's easy to see from the beginning who the romance will be, but despite even knowing where you should be looking for clues, there just aren't any. There are no moments of longing, no stepping closer to each other just because they could, no accidental touches. There is literally more detail in the book about the protagonist not eating pork and drinking wine because she is Muslim than there is about the romance (and I appreciated the way the book wove in Islam!).

And let's all be honest, it's crazy that authors get so much praise for doing the literal bare minimum. One kiss! And that kiss not even actually described. Here it is: “Greatly daring, Henrietta bent her face towards Muna’s. For a time there was no need for conversation.” And that's it. To make this situation even more disappointing, unlike the straight characters of the first novel, who get to marry and live together and be happy, Muna and her 'love' get a month a year. Unbelievable.

If you can get over a romance subplot being indelicately and unreasonably shoved into the last 8 pages of the novel, it's got the same kind of plot that drew in so many readers as the first novel. So if you're just looking to stay around in Cho's unique world, it's worth getting from your local library.
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