Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The True Queen by Zen Cho

The True Queen by Zen Cho is set after the events of Sorcerer to the Crown, but is not a direct sequel since it follows a different group of characters. I enjoyed Sorcerer to the Crown and generally recommend starting there to get a delightful introduction to the world, but if you can't get your hands on it, I don't see a problem with starting with The True Queen (especially if you don't mind being spoiled for the end state of Sorcerer to the Crown).

Fairyland’s future lies in doubt

The enchanted island of Janda Baik, in the Malay Archipelago, has long been home to witches. And Muna and her sister Sakti wake on its shores under a curse, which has quite stolen away their memories. Their only hope of salvation lies in distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal runs a controversial academy for female magicians. But the pair travel via the formidable Fairy Queen’s realm, where Sakti simply disappears.

To save her sister, Muna must learn to navigate Regency London’s high society and trick the English into believing she’s a magical prodigy. But when the Sorceress Royal’s friends become accidentally embroiled in a plot – involving the Fairy Queen’s contentious succession – Muna is drawn right in. She must also find Sakti, break their curse and somehow stay out of trouble. But if fairyland’s true queen does finally return, trouble may find her first . . .

This was an excellent read. I had put off starting it for a little while because I wanted to finish other books I was part way through first. But (eventually) putting them aside and starting The True Queen was an excellent decision. I remember enjoying Sorcerer to the Crown very much when I read it, but that was a few years ago and in audiobook form, so my memory of it was hazier than I would have liked. I need not have worried, though since The True Queen follows a new character and gives us a good grounding in the world — and the Malaysian side of the world, at that — before introducing us to most of the recurring characters.

Muna starts off the book with no memory of who she is or why she washed up on a beach. She and her sister are taken in by a powerful local witch and, when little progress is made in curing them of the mysterious curse, they are sent to England to find out more. That's where things go wrong and also where the main connection to the earlier book lies.

I really enjoyed The True Queen. It made me laugh with its incidental humour and told an intriguing story which was captivating even though we, the reader, were given more than enough information to make connections that the protagonist overlooked for perfectly understandable reasons. And through the second most prominent character, Henrietta, we got a closer look at English society, the ways in which Prunella — the first Sorceress Royal — had changed society and the ways in which she hadn't.

I highly recommend The True Queen to anyone who enjoys fantasy with a dollop of humour or regcency-ish settings or Malaysian settings, for that matter. I continue to adore Zen Cho's writing (have you read her short stories?) and I will avidly read anything else of hers that I come across.

5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2019, Macmillan
Series: Sorcerer Royal, book 2 of 2 (so far)
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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