The True Queen

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

The True Queen is the second novel by author Zen Cho, and is a sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown, which I previously reviewed here. I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Set in Regency England, this book features the protagonist from the first book, Prunella, now Sorcerer Royal of the nation, but in a secondary role. The main story follows Muna, a young lady from distant Janda Baik who was taken in by Mak Genggang, a powerful sorceress that also makes a reappearance from the Sorcerer to the Crown.

Muna and her sister Sakti awaken on a beach with no memories of their past. They soon find their way to the household of Mak Genggang, where Sakti becomes a student of sorcery. However, both of the sisters appear to have been cursed, and when their plans to fix their ailment themselves go wrong, Mak Genggang is forced to send them away to England for their own protection.

During their journey, the sisters travel through Faerie, and Sakti disappears. Muna emerges into England alone and swears to find her sister, but also doesn’t trust the English sorcerers enough to tell them exactly what happened. Muna still manages to discover Sakti’s location and launches a daring plan to save her, taking Prunella’s friend Henrietta Stapleton along in her adventures.

Muna is a charming and tenacious heroine, but her ignorance of the customs in England add to her challenges. Despite this, I found that I liked the earlier Sorcerer to the Crown better than The True Queen. The ending wrapped up the story, but I felt a little confused with how it turned out in regards to Muna. I’ll still look out for any more books in this series though.
Was this review helpful?
An absolutely amazing sequel by Zen Cho! Her first novel, Sorcerer Queen, introduced readers to the magical world of Victorian England and was a fantastic blend of magic, romance, and stuffy Brits. Her sequel expands on the world (you don't need to read one before the other, but there are some call backs and visits from favourite characters) and improves in terms of story and the focus on friendship, sisterhood, and love in all forms. A true treat.
Was this review helpful?
Absolutely charming! Mostly a quest novel motivated by sisterly love (always nice) with a tiny dash of wlw romance. The summary doesn't seem like this will be too closely related to Sorcerer to the Crown but I think it would be best to read The True Queen only after reading the first book -- a lot of the plot once Muna arrives in England depends on things that happened in Sorcerer to the Crown. (Also you will better appreciate things like getting to see more of Poggs and Rollo, and Prunella being Prunella.) Mak Genggang was amazing in every scene she showed up in, and I wish she'd been a bigger part of the book (and that there had been more time dedicated to Janda Baik in general). The stakes don't feel as high as in Sorcerer to the Crown -- mainly because it's obvious almost from the beginning what the final plot twist is going to be -- but Muna is such a lovely character to spend time with and her observations of the sexism and racism of English society are spot on.
Was this review helpful?
Stevie‘s review of The True Queen (Sorcerer Royal, Book 2) by Zen Cho
Historical Fantasy published by Ace 12 Mar 19

I greatly enjoyed Zen Cho’s first Sorcerer Royal book and have been impatiently awaiting the next in the series. Although I was a little surprised that this new story opened not in England, but on a foreign shore, and featured completely new characters, all the elements soon fell into place as we learned how these people were connected to the British magicians and magiciennes, as well as to the world of Fairy – the Unseen Realm as our new friends would have it.

Muna and Sakti remember nothing of their lives before they awoke on a Malaysian shore, but know instinctively that they are sisters. They are taken in by a local witch, Mak Genggang, who tells them that they have been cursed. While the witch is trying to discover who or what has cursed them, Muna – who has no magic – is set to work in the kitchens, whereas Sakti is taught how better to use her own magic. After carrying out some investigations of their own, the girls learn that someone called Midsomer is connected to what happened to them. With Sakti becoming increasingly weakened by the curse, Mak Genggang sends the girls to England by way of the Unseen Realm, in the hope that the Sorceress Royal might be able to help them, where she cannot.

Things don’t go according to plan: Sakti gets stranded in the Unseen Realm and Muna finds herself alone at the school run by the Sorceress Royal, Prunella Wythe, and her friend Henrietta Stapleton. The school and its inhabitants are not at all as she expected them to be, but she tries to fit in, while hiding the fact that she possesses no magic of her own. Soon Muna is caught up in all manner of intrigue, involving multiple members of the Midsomer family. The Fairy Queen has had a valuable treasure stolen from her and, suspecting that the Sorceress Royal or some other English person is hiding it, sends a representative to the school to either find it or bring back high-ranking prisoners for her to eat. Meanwhile, Prunella’s friend Rollo Threlfall and his great love Poggs Damerrell are being held prisoner in Fairy, due to Rollo’s own suspected involvement in the theft of the treasure his draconic family were supposed to guard.

Rollo manages to get a message to Muna to pass on to Prunella, and the two young women set off to conduct a thrilling rescue – which Muna hopes will allow her to save her sister at the same time. Through their adventures, we learn a lot more about the politics of Fairy, and slowly piece together the clues as to who Muna and Sakti really are.

I loved this book at least as much as the previous one, and it was great to both meet new friends and be reunited with older ones. We also learned far more about the magical politics of England, as well as those of other parts of the mortal realm than were revealed in the first book and it was fun seeing how the families of the various central characters compared with each other. There’s loads more to learn about this world yet, and once again I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Grade: A
Was this review helpful?
The book is a sequel, but you could read this without having read the first one since the main POV from the first book is barely in this one.  Two sisters, one with magic and the other without travel to England from Janda Baik. They have no memory of their past but with a knowledge of languages they must have been the children of someone important.  The sisters are trying to figure out who cursed them, and the trail leads to England. While traveling through Fairy to get there quickly the sisters are separated.  Muna arrives in England at the school of the Sorceress Royal and pretends to have the magic that Sakti has.  English society doesn’t approve of women using magic especially high-born ones and this causes no end of friction that Prunella is in charge of all the Sorcerers in the land. Muna wants to get her sister back from Fairy and Fairy wants to go to war with England over a missing magical amulet.  Everything braids together by the last part of the book and works out well for everyone. 

Digital review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
I found this sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown delightful. I enjoyed the first novel, and think this second book was even better. Cho seems to have found a rhythm and tells a fun, fairy-tale like story in The True Queen.  The reader is taken through the story through the vantage of some new characters, with an occasional trip with a character or two from the first book. We're introduced to two sisters, Muna and Sakti, who have washed up on shore with no memories except their respective names. It becomes apparent that the two sisters are cursed, and the great witch Mak Genggang has no idea how to cure them. The sisters eventually get into some trouble and are sent off to England's Sorceress Royal as a sort of peace agreement. This is the start of the adventure as one sister is lost in the Unseen World when traveling to England. I was slightly put-off in the beginning to not get the same characters from the first book, but found that I enjoyed seeing the world through new eyes (so to speak). I feel that Cho made the world more three-dimensional for the reader by doing this, and I’m looking forward to the third book. I would highly recommend this book to fans of Cho's first book.
Was this review helpful?
Two connected souls wash up on the magical shores of Janda Baik. Sakti speaks Muna's name and Muna knows that it is hers, just as she knows Sakti is her sister. But that is all. Neither girl knows any more. The powerful witch Mak Grenggang takes the girls in unperturbed by the amnesia but willing to help them with their memory when she has free time, which is rare. Sakti shows magical abilities and therefore becomes Mak Grenggang's pupil. Muna doesn't have a bit of magic in her body and therefore helps take care of Mak Grenggang's large household of supernatural beings. It is a simple and quiet life but Sakti is unsettled and mistrustful of Mak Grenggang. She wants to know who she is and why she has forgotten. Everything becomes more urgent when Sakti discovers that she literally has a hole through her body. Parts of her are fading away and she thinks this strongly indicates that she and her sister have been cursed, though Muna isn't convinced the kindly Mak Grenggang is behind it as her sister keeps insisting. They need answers and have heard that the English Raja is hoarding books on magic and therefore sneak to the British Resident's house on the settlement of Malacca where they are soon caught in the act.

Their trespass has severe political ramifications. The British in Malaysia have been waiting for any excuse to go after Mak Grenggang and take control of Janda Baik and Sakti and Muna have given them an excuse. Therefore Sakti and Muna have to be whisked away from the island through the realms of Fairy and into the protection of Mak Grenggang's friend, the Sorceress Royal of England. By Sakti being sponsored as an honored guest and pupil at the Sorceress Royal's school, The Lady Maria Wythe Academy for the Instruction of Females in Practical Thaumaturgy, the English can't justifiably seize Janda Baik. Only as they take the shortcut Mak Grenggang has laid for them through Fairy something horrible happens, Sakti is taken. Only Muna makes it to England and she has to convince the Sorceress Royal and her friend Henrietta Stapleton that she is the magical one and that their first goal is to find her sister. Things can never be that simple though. Fairy can not be accessed from England due to many ongoing issues, the most recent being the Threlfall family losing the Fairy Queen's Virtu, and an all out war with Fairy could come to pass. What is Muna to do when all she wants is her sister? The answer is whatever it takes.

In the first book in this series, Sorcerer to the Crown, we alternated between two characters, the Sorceress Royal, Prunella Gentleman, and her predecessor and now husband (sqweee) Zacharias Wythe. While The True Queen does continue their story they aren't the focus of this book and while at first I was like, I'm not sure I want the story continued in a book that isn't a direct up sequel, I've been completely won over with how Zen Cho has been able to expand her universe while remaining true to it's origins, which has that same snark I love so much from The Magicians. It's not just that we have more locations, from spending time in Janda Baik to seeing other parts of Fairy besides the quick glimpse Zacharias had previously of the court, it's that we see the story through the eyes of so many different characters. The number of POVs in this book has expanded exponentially, so Muna, Sakti, Prunella, Henrietta, Rollo, even a Midsomer, have a little slice of the story! And each character builds the narrative and it's themes, not one of them, even Clarissa Midsomer, taking away from the plot. The constant struggle between desire and duty is explored through more lives and more facets showcasing the importance of family and what sacrifice really means. I couldn't think of a better sequel.

While the character roster is expanding so is our understanding of how magic works in the world Zen Cho has created. I've always liked the idea that magic is science we don't yet understand, and while what we learn here isn't science, it does finally give us an understanding of how magic works in this world. In Sorcerer to the Crown it's clear that magic comes from the Fairy realm as they've put a block on it. Here though we see magic through the eyes of Muna who, while not magical, was taught an entirely different approach to magic in Malaysia. In fact she has many different terms and abilities that the English magicians don't have. She even calls the Queen of the Fairies the Queen of the Djinns. So it makes sense that she would see all magic differently and what she sees is that all magic is actually accomplished by invisible creatures in the air that do the magician's bidding. So all the spells and incantations are just words strung together, sometimes rather rudely, to get these invisible creatures to enact the wishes of the magician. Muna can not believe that this is how magic works! It's wonderful to think that through kindness and flattery anyone can achieve magical feats. The male English magicians who were all rather bombastic in my mind would never deign to believe that being nice can lead to magic and therefore it makes me extremely happy that this is the case.

In fact this whole book is about seeing everything differently. It's about opening up your eyes to the magic that is literally all around us. That love can come in many shapes and sizes and might not be expected or understood, but it is always welcome. This inclusivity prevalent throughout the book made me feel as if the ending was a little flat. Now I'm not going to go and spoil anything for you here, but I will explain a bit around the relationship in question in order to hopefully get my point across, but if you want to be completely ignorant feel free to skip ahead to me talking about dragons, and yes, I talk about dragons! So we have two characters of the same sex who fall desperately in love. You will be shipping them the entire book. Therefore when they don't technically end up together at the end of the book it's kind of heartbreaking. I mean, yes, it's historically accurate, being openly gay during this time in history wasn't exactly the done thing, but at the same time, this is a book about magic and dragons and actual fairies and I kind of was hoping for something more. Not a compromise, not something that will look fine to the outside world, but complete and total happily ever after. Of course seeing as this actually annoyed me so much just goes to show how much I love the characters...

Dragons! See, I told you I'd talk about them. So here's the thing, I never really thought of myself as a big dragon fan. I liked them and all, but then I started noticing things, like how I have a fair amount of stuffed animal dragons and dragon statuary and more than a few books about dragons and Falkor was easily my favorite character in The Neverending Story and then I thought on it and realized, yes, I think I'm a little obsessed with dragons. I mean, I'm not Dragonriders of Porn level obsessed, and thank you forever to whomever wrote the "Home Improvement" episode of The Magicians this season for that joke. But still, it all comes down to the fact that I love me some dragons. Which means I LOVE ME some Rollo Threlfall the familiar of Paget Damerell. The big reveal at the end of Sorcerer to the Crown is that Rollo isn't just a typical Regency buck but is actually a dragon. And therefore his Aunt Georgiana who kind of started the whole narrative going back in book one by asking Rollo to give a speech to some gentlewitches is also actually a dragon. But what I love most is that while they are dragons that doesn't change their underlying characters. Rollo is a Regency buck trapped in a dragon and Aunt Georgiana is the dragon of an aunt you always fear at the local assembly. Regency dragons, is there anything better!?! The answer is no if you were wondering.

But oddly enough it was a small plot point that was the icing on top of the cake for me and that was a hall of talking paintings. Talking paintings are pretty common in books with magic or magical schools, just look to how ubiquitous they are in Harry Potter. Though interestingly enough it's never mentioned how they came to be in Harry Potter, unless it's somewhere on Pottermore and I can't be bothered to slog through that site. I mean Dumbeldore's painting is up like minutes after he's dead, how did they swing that!?! I mean, seriously, how, I NEED to know. Therefore I was more than a little pleased that Zen Cho instead of just having talking paintings that are rude to the students of The Lady Maria Wythe Academy for the Instruction of Females in Practical Thaumaturgy she explains how they are made and why they might be a little rude. Because it's not the personality of the subject that is captured but the personality of the subject as viewed through the eyes of the artist. Oh, as an artist how I loved this. It's like instant revenge for generations on someone who is rude to you! As Mr. Wythe explained: "the paintings have little of their subjects in them - the life that animates them springs from the artist, and the artist's opinions of his subject cannot be taken as a wholly reliable guide to who they were. I am sure the real George Midsomer was much pleasanter than his likeness." Ahem, sure... a "nice" Midsomer. I'll believe it when I see it, maybe in the next book?
Was this review helpful?
This book was represented as a companion novel, and .I read it as such. However, I do think it is probably best read as a sequel. I understood the magic and the worldbuilding well enough, but it seemed like I was missing A LOT of the character relationships and development.

I loved Muna and Sakti, Muna most of all. Henrietta is adorable and sweet. 

Full RTC at a later date after reading the first in this series.
Was this review helpful?
Genius in that it gives us a story we didn’t know we needed or wanted. This was a fantastic sequel! I loved returning to this world, but even more I enjoyed the sisterly love portrayed. Such an important theme that is often overlooked.
Was this review helpful?
I didn't think I needed this story until I read it. I think of The True Queen as a companion novel, following the lives of two sisters, Muna and Sakti. To me, they are the perfect balance of each other, one without magic and the other with a plethora of it.

There are many different paths to this story, talking about the main characters as well as keeping the reader engaged. There were different voices, and while I normally shy away from that, Cho did a great job writing them all seamlessly. 

This world is amazing, and the characters were dynamic and relatable.

I enjoyed this so much!

*Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
I read Sorcerer to the Crown for the first time right before reading this one TBH. The True Queen flows perfectly from it. 

I still really fucking love Prunella. Zacharias continues to get better. We see little of them as a honeymoon phase couple, sadly. But what I see, I like. 

The romance level is exactly the same: companionship, glances & guesses. Except no one is suggestive or teasing about the w/w couple. Which sucks.  I felt cheated out of more in a way absent from the Sorcerer to the Crown. 

I love the unique POVs while learning more about Faerie, dragons, and the island. 

I didn't see villian coming. I didn’t see the solution to the character’s problems though it was obvious retrospectively. I saw part of the ending coming & I think most would but how it comes about & turns out was all surprise. And getting there was all good. 

I'd love more of the series. BUT I'd want more resoluteness & on page romance before the very end. Especially if the couple is marginalized. Why only white ppl & supernatural get to romance on page in fantasy? 

I mean, I’ll read them but I won’t be as satisfied even if the other qualities continue to remain the same gold standard.
Was this review helpful?
My review appeared on Dear Author on Monday, March 25, 2019:

The True Queen begins when two women, Muna and Sakti, come to consciousness during a storm, near the village of Janda Baik in Malaysia. Muna and Sakti recognize that they are sisters, though both are missing their memories. Sakti is haughty, opinionated, and possesses magical abilities. Muna is humbler, less certain, and has no magic whatsoever.

The local witch and wise woman, Mak Genggang, takes in Sakti and Muna and tells them that a curse worker stole their memories. The witch begins to teach Sakti how to use her magic, but Sakti feels restless. Muna, the main character, works in the kitchens alongside the other people and the lamiae Mak Genggang is also sheltering, and she enjoys it.

Then Sakti reveals to Muna that a magical hole is forming in her stomach, and she is sure that Mak Genggang is the curse worker responsible for that, as well for the loss of their memories. Muna is certain that isn’t true.

To forestall leaving Mak Genggang’s home, as Sakti wants them to do, Muna agrees to sneak into the house of Tuan Farquhar, the Resident (aka Raja to Sakti and Muna) of Malacca. Farquhar collects spells and Muna suggests they use one of his spells to discover who cursed them.

Just before they get caught in Farquhar’s house, Muna and Sakti learn that the curse worker’s name is Midsomer. And because they caused an international incident by infiltrating the Resident’s house, Mak Genggang sends them to England, to her friend the Sorceress Royal, Prunella Wythe.

En route, while walking through a forest on the border between England and Fairy Within, Sakti is sucked into Fairyland. Unable to find Sakti, Muna completes the journey to London. In England, Muna is mistaken for the magical Sakti and welcomed. She is given housing in Prunella’s academy, where young ladies are taught how to use their magic.

There, Muna makes the acquaintance of Prunella, three students and their two teachers, Henrietta Stapleton and Clarissa Midsomer. With the aid of a temperamental djinn that Mak Genggang entrusted to Sakti, Muna is able to use a tiny bit of magic. But her goal at all times, one for which she must continue her deception no matter how much she likes her new friends, is to locate Sakti and bring her home.

Meanwhile, an amulet belonging to the Fairy Queen, known as the Virtu, has disappeared from the hoard of a dragon who was storing it for her and the queen is convinced the English have stolen it. Her emissary, the Duke of the Navel of the Seas, arrives in England with the intention of eating everyone there in revenge. Prunella manages to delay him by suggesting he search for the thief first, but if the Virtu isn’t found, England will not survive.

When the fate of the amulet intersects with Muna’s quest to save her sister, Muna contrives to travel to Fairyland in a desperate bid to find and retrieve both.

This novel is a sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown but it has a different set of main characters, so I think it is a decent starting point if you want to skip book one. It is also a charming fantasy and two of the ingredients from Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown are present: a Heyer-influenced sense of humor and a stealth romance.

The Malaysian heroine is a new and welcome ingredient, giving this book a fresher voice than Sorcerer to the Crown had, and The True Queen feels more surefooted than its prequel. Muna is easy to like—even stranded in England with her sister lost, unable to communicate with Mak Genggang, her determination to save Sakti still causes her misgivings when it requires her to deceive others. There is also an earnestness to her character that adds to her appeal.

This is a partial review. The complete review can be found at Dear Author, here:
Was this review helpful?
What a great twist on regency romance! On the lighter side too ( which is a plus sometimes and certainly in this case)  While I enjoyed this book, it hits all the sweet spots, I felt it was a bit more meandering than the first and could've been tightening up a bit. Still, for fans of Glamour in Glass, it  is an excellent addition to your shelf!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. It has in no way influenced my opinion.

Last week I reviewed Sorcerer to the Crown. (If you'd like to read my review, click here.) I fell head over heals for that book. And I was ecstatic to jump back into the world that Zen Cho has created. If you haven't had a chance to read Sorcerer to the Crown yet, don't worry, this book can be read as a standalone. However, you're going to want to read the first book because it's awesome.

The True Queen takes place two years after Sorcerer to the Crown ended. The book begins with two sisters, Muna and Satki, waking up on a beach. They have no memory of who they are or how they got there. The only thing they do know is that they're sisters. And they're cursed. Satki is slowly disappearing, so they are sent to the Sorceress Royal by Mak Genggang. On the way there, Satki disappears. Muna must head to England and find a way to save her sister. 

Dragons, capers, mysteries, regency era, balls, fairies, magicians, and that's just the first few chapters. Cho could have gone in any direction for the second book in this series, but I love the way she went. Her characters are, once again, fantastic. The story line had me glued to the pages. I just want more of this type of novel. It checks so many boxes on my list that I can't wait for the third book in this series to come out.

Was this review helpful?
The sequel to the ah-mazing SORCERER TO THE CROWN, THE TRUE QUEEN has magic, mayhem, and strong female characters that you root for the whole way through. I loved seeing the old characters, meeting new ones, and being introduced to more magic in this than we previously saw.

I loved seeing how British magic was different from Indian magic. It was such a good exploration of colonization and how that impacts what we are taught and understand. Just like with SORCERER TO THE CROWN, this is talked about on a high level, but not really explained in full detail, which I think is a bit of a miss, but overall I enjoyed that aspect.

THE BEST PART THOUGH. Muna and Henrietta's relationship. I was so grateful to see such on-screen chemistry between them. And while a lot of the book is pretty predictable (Muna has to "fake" being a sorceress while trying to get her memories back in a foreign land and falls in love), it was still amazing. I loved being able to see a lot of tropes that are in Adult Fantasy through a f/f lens.

Cho has created a masterpiece of Fantasy and I hope you pick it up. And guess what! If you haven't read SORCERER TO THE CROWN, you can still read this! There is enough explanation to get you through some aspects and the story focuses mainly on our new character(s) so you can learn more about them instead.
Was this review helpful?
Zen Cho’s debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, was a delightful and inventive entry into the world of magical fantasy in the setting of the British Regency. It masterfully and quirkily dealt with issues of the patriarchy and feminism, plus there were dragons. This March, the next delightful saga in Zen Cho’s magical Regency world, The True Queen, enters the world.

The True Queen takes place two years after Sorcerer to the Crown. It is a standalone novel about two magically-cursed sisters from the Malayan isle of Janda Baik. The book is a separate story and follows new characters not found in the Sorceress Royal’s tale. But, it is beneficial, and perhaps more enjoyable, to have read Sorcerer to the Crown prior to undertaking The True Queen. Regardless, Zen Cho masterfully weaves another tale that touches on issues of race but mostly focuses on the importance of sisterhood, friendship, and acceptance of self. Plus, there are more dragons. Or as Zen Cho puts it:

 “Hijinks with Dragons (my brand)”

If you’re a fan of magical fantasy, fully developed characters who continue to grow, mysteries, adventure, and of course dragons, make sure to check out the excerpt and pre-order your copy of The True Queen.
Was this review helpful?
Sorcerer to the Crown was one of my favorite books of 2015. From the joint review Lou and I did at The Book Pushers in 2015, it’s pretty obvious that it was one of her favorites too. The hoped for sequel has been on my most anticipated list ever since.

That long awaited sequel has finally arrived in the manifestation of The True Queen. I wanted to love this book. I expected to love this book. And I’m SO disappointed that I didn’t.

It’s not a bad book. It certainly has some interesting moments. But, and in this case it’s a very large but, it just doesn’t have the same verve as the first. Sorcerer to the Crown was epically readable, because there’s just so much going on from the very first page.

Definitely on the other hand, The True Queen just doesn’t have that compulsive readability.

Instead, the first half of the book plods. It’s slow. Not much seems to happen.

Part of that is that we need to be re-introduced to this world and its characters. 2015 was a long time ago, even if not much time has passed within the series.

But a lot of it is that the protagonists of The True Queen are passive, where the protagonists of Sorcerer to the Crown were both very active participants in the story. Instead, one of the main characters of The True Queen is fridged for a big chunk of the story. And while Sakti is frequently annoying, especially to her sister Muna, she is also the more active of the pair.

Of the sisters, Sakti is proactive – even if usually wrongheaded – while Muna is reactive. Unfortunately, it’s Muna the passive that we end up following for the first half of the story. And while Sakti always overestimates her capabilities, Muna underestimates hers. As a consequence, Sakti is the one who makes things happen – even if they are often the wrong thing.

Muna usually cleans up after Sakti. Without Sakti around to push her, she spends a lot of time waiting for something to happen, for someone to help her, or for the situation to become clear.

The two very active protagonists of Sorcerer to the Queen are relegated to background roles, and the story misses their drive immensely. Instead, the true standout character in The True Queen is Prunella’s shy and retiring friend Henrietta.

About halfway through the book, once all of the situations are set, the action finally kicks into gear. That’s the point where Henrietta finally takes her courage into her hands, and Muna sets plans in motion to rescue her sister instead of waiting for someone else to tell her what do it and how to do it.

From the point where the action moves to the court of the capricious Queen of Fairy, the situation becomes both more interesting and more dangerous. Not just because Henrietta manages to find out what she’s really made of, but because Muna takes the lead and figures out who she really is and what she’s been meant to be all along.

Escape Rating C+: This is a book that does reward sticking with it, but it takes a lot of stick. The action does not really get going until the book is half over, and that’s a lot of set up. In the end, it makes sense that Muna is as passive and reactive as she is – but it still makes The True Queen a disappointment in comparison with its predecessor. And I’m so, so sorry about that.
Was this review helpful?
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 different 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.
Was this review helpful?