Cover Image: The True Queen

The True Queen

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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:

https://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-b-reviews/b-plus-reviews/review-the-true-queen-by-zen-cho/
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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!
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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.
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*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.

Read more at https://www.toreadornottoread.net/2019/03/review-true-queen.html#GmWBCzxmYjkbe1Qf.99
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Not long into her sojourn in an alt-Regency England, the not-quite-magicienne Muna stumbles upon a portrait gallery of the English Sorcerers Royal going back generations, all of them well turned-out men of power. Muna doesn’t know to expect this, because she is neither magical nor English. Not unlike the portraits at Hogwarts, these paintings can talk. They can also harangue, insult, and generally behave badly. They treat her as a servant; they heckle the Sorceress Royal who has taken Muna in; they swear and curse. As the avatars of a bunch of grumpy white dudes, they don’t—or can’t—afford anyone who doesn’t look like them the simple courtesy.

Muna is taken aback; just who do these people think they are? That is the operative question for much of the plot of The True Queen, Zen Cho’s standalone followup to Sorcerer to the Crown: Who do you think you are?

Indeed, Muna isn’t entirely sure who she is, she and her sister Shakti having recently washed up on a beach in Janda Baik without their memories. They are taken in by the powerful witch Mak Ganggang. After the girls get involved in a spot of local trouble, Mak Genggang decides to send them to England, and into the care of the Sorceress Royal, Prunella Wythe, both to further the education of the magically inclined Shakti, and to give them a chance to discover the identity of curseworker who stole their memories. Things do not go according to plan: Shakti is lost on the road through Fairy, and her magically inert sister Muna arrives in England alone.

Muna’s first stop is the newly opened Lady Maria Wythe Academy for the Instruction of Females in Practical Thaumaturgy, which certainly is a mouthful. It was there that Shakti was to be instructed in magic, and also to consult with the irrepressible Prunella Wythe (née Gentleman), whom we first met in Sorcerer to the Crown. Before Prunella’s ascension to Sorceress Royal, girls with magical abilities were sent to schools that taught them how to repress their powers, not develop them. Lady Maria Wythe Academy is the first school dedicated to instructing girls in the magical arts. Muna must both search for her sister, lost to Fairy, and maintain the fiction that she is the magical one, fearing she’ll be turned out if anyone learns the truth.

Muna has one clue to go on—the name Midsomer, delivered to her via a ritual to discover the identity of the curseworker—and a potential ally in a polong, a djinn-like creature of magic given to her by Mak Ganggang. Unfortunately, like much of the magic in this world, the polong only helps on its own timetable, and by its own obtuse means.

These difficult tasks are compounded when an emissary from the Fairy Queen arrives in the middle of a ball. (On some level, the disruption is welcome, given how the English are pawing over Muna like she is something between an exotic toy and a mute child.) He announces that all English magicians will be murdered unless they return a stolen amulet called Virtu. The Queen, employing extremely suspect reasoning that is her wont, believes the English are behind the theft. Suddenly, Prunella has little time for a wayward girl and her lost sister. As in the way of mysteries, of course, the sisters’ plight and the stolen amulet are matters not as discrete as they initially appear (the novel’s title might also offer us a clue as to what’s really going on).

Muna isn’t nearly as vivacious a main character as Prunella was in Sorcerer to the Crown, which is initially a bit disappointing, but eventually opens up narrative possibilities not available to someone like Prunella. In fact, much of The True Queen focuses intentionally on the sidekicks and dogsbodies, the characters just to side of the action. (Henrietta Stapleton, Prunella’s friend from childhood, also steps into a more active role.)

Though its principle actors may be on the quiet side, the plot of The True Queen is active and busy, peppered with lovely set pieces and all manner of intrigue. All the mysteries gather up into and enjoyably tidy conclusion, with just enough human (or fairy) foible to keep the solution from being too neat. This is lovely follow up to one of my favorite debut novels: a sequel that didn’t give me what I was expecting, but what I didn’t know I wanted all along.

The True Queen is available now.
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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.
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THE TRUE QUEEN is a genuine delight and well worth the wait since Zen Cho's last Sorcerer Royal novel, SORCERER TO THE CROWN. A story of sisters, a comedy of manners, and a journey into a world of magic unlike any I've ever read, this is a wonderful addition to the canon of historical fantasy.
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This review was originally posted on <a href="https://booksofmyheart.net/2019/03/06/the-true-queen-by-zen-cho/" target="_blank"> Books of My Heart</a>
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Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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3.5 hearts
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I loved the first book in the <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/series/147777-sorcerer-royal" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em><strong>Sorcerer Royal series</strong></em></a> with its British society, social issues, magic, and a sprinkling of creatures and fae. <strong>The True Queen</strong> begins not so long after that story, but focuses on Malyasian witches and the fae.  The two young women from the island, go to England, and this is the world already known, with some of the characters from the first book.

We mostly see things through Muna's view and learn the most of her character. She is a kind and likeable person.  She spent most of her time alone or with people she hardly knew. Sakti is not present for a long time so we don't know her well at all. The other primary character is Hennrietta Stapleton, who is Prunella's longtime friend and instructor at the Academy.   I would have enjoyed more of Prunella and Zacharias.  There was barely a hint of romance in this story.

The mystery is mostly relocating Sakti, a missing treasure and her history with Muna.  There is not much overall  about the political issues although the social issues are woven into the story. "Proper" women are still not "supposed" to learn magic.  The ambiguities of the fae world and its unusual aspects were not as satisfying to me as the more structured, yet magical outcomes in <strong>The Sorcerer to the Crown</strong>.  I hope we will get more with Prunella and Zacharias and the overall world magic political situation.

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This book was such a delight to read. I loved meeting Muna and exploring the worlds of Janda Baik, the Unseen Realm, and the newly-formed Academy in Britain. Like the first book, stakes felt high without diminishing the light and fun tone. None of the final reveal was much of a surprise, having been heavily foreshadowed (seriously, I've seen less explicit foreshadowing in the prophecies in a middle grade fantasy) but the journey was still enjoyable. I wish we had seen more of Zacharias and Prunella, and like the first book, the romance, while delightful, was mostly tacked on at the end. Still, I will keep reading things in this universe as long as Cho continues to write them.
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Muna's amnesia was not so very bothersome, as long as she had her headstrong sister Sakti by her side and a benevolent mistress in the powerful witch Mak Genggang. Then the curse upon the siblings begins to make Sakti evanesce. The sisters are forced to flee to the English Sorceress Royal, Prunella Wythe, by cutting through Fairy Land, which is when everything goes horribly awry. In order to save Sakti and the entirety of England, Muna and her new friend Henrietta must save a dragon, outfox the Queen of Fairy Land, and solve the mystery of Muna's past. The characters in this Regency fantasy are just delightful.
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I’ve been waiting for a follow up to Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho, since I turned the last page. The book was such a breath of fresh air yet, at the same time, gave me so many things I already knew I loved in historical fantasy. The True Queen, I am happy to report, is well worth the wait. I honestly can’t recall the last book that I finished with such a strong feeling of satisfied happiness.

This novel picks up several years after the events of Sorcerer to the Crown…and in a different country. Two sisters, Muna and Sakti, have been rescued from the sea around Janda Baik, Malaysia. They don’t remember who they are, other than their names—and that they have been cursed by someone powerful. Thankfully, they are taken in by Mak Genggang, the fearsome sorceress who defends the island from colonizers. But when the girls catch the attention of a local British bigwig, they are sent to the Sorceress Royal of England (one of the protagonists of Sorcerer to the Crown) to finally sort things out. Things get even worse for the sisters when, on a shortcut through Fairy, Sakti is whisked away and her magic-less sister arrives in England alone.

Zacharias Wythe, the primary protagonist of Sorcerer to the Crown, only makes brief appearances in this novel. Instead, Muna takes center stage as she tries to find her sister and get un-cursed. Her only allies are a polong and Henrietta Stapleton, the best friend of the Sorceress Royal. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but Muna has a very strategic mind that makes the best of any tool or advantage that comes her way. That very strategic mind is repeatedly tested as Muna ends up in the middle of a fight between Fairy and England, a bunch of tangential power grabs, and a revelation that sharp-eyed readers will see coming long before Muna figures things out.

While I loved a lot about The True Queen, there was one thing that annoyed me. There are multiple scenes in which Muna, Henrietta, and others offer to sacrifice themselves to save someone else and have to argue their case repeatedly. One or two of these would have been plenty, but I lost count of how often this scene repeated itself. Thankfully, the pure joy of the ending made up for a lot of my annoyance. I’m 37 years old and I was in serious risk of, as the kids say, squee-ing over the whole thing.
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The True Queen takes everything I fell in love with from Sorcerer to the Crown further. We are welcomed even more into the fairy lands, meet even more fascinating creatures, and get to see even more Prunella. Even more so, we are treated to Cho's signature characters with the addition of Muna and Skati. There's even a f/f romance within the book, even though it's very light, similar to the romance within Sorcerer to the Crown.
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