Cover Image: The True Queen

The True Queen

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Member Reviews

It was good to slip back into the world of the Sorcerer Royal. Muna, without magic, must find a way to save her sister Sakti from the Fairy Court and convince the English magiciennes Henrietta and Prunella to help. Cho is an incredible writer, and I enjoyed the time and space that the women in all the settings (England, Malaysia, and Fairy) are given in the story. The plot was surprisingly predictable, despite its uniqueness, which was a bit of a disappointment. However, it's so nice to read a historical fantasy featuring women of color. And the female romance subplot was refreshing, too.
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The bond shared between sisters is like no other.  Muna and Sakti are beautiful examples of this familiar theme in this fabulously spellbinding novel by Cho.  Though I didn't read the first book and know the backstory, I was instantly aware of many issues in their lives as I learned about each character when the plot began to unfold.  This was not a problem for me.  I found myself almost instantly engaged in a magical plot filled with lovely twists and turns as well as moments filled with power and trickery.  This is an excellent story that is sure to engage fans of YA magical fantasy and well told tales! Highly recommend!
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The True Queen is Zen Cho’s follow up to their utterly charming debut, Sorcerer to the Crown.
It’s a delightful blend of magic and manners, as well as wit and romance. It’s the sort of book you can happily read while drinking a cup of tea on a rainy day, letting it transport you to a world where fairies are real (and sometimes deadly), and so is magic; where a scathing word can cut deeper than a blade, where dances are utterly serious, and where everyone should know their place.

Muna, the protagonist, isn’t particularly good at knowing her place. She begins her journey on a beach, with no memory of who she is, and with a sister. Muna is grounded, considerate, thoughtful, and unbending in the face of adversity. You can feel her quiet strength suffusing every line she speaks, and parse it from her quick thinking and craft in the face of danger. By contrast, her sister is imperious, sharp, sometimes thoughtless – but also fierce, witty, a being of air and fire . Their relationship is characterised by their love for each other. Though they bicker, squabble and banter as much as siblings do, there’s an undercurrent there of trust and affection, a bond which sustains each, even as it holds them to fight for each other. This familial bond is given a sympathetic rendering in the text, and it’s wonderfully drawn, as the pair of bickering siblings strive toward their mutual goals.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the friendship she has with Henrietta, one of the magieiennes of Britain, whose family issues probably deserve a novel all of their own. The two of them are kind to each other, supportive, fierce and endearing. The time they spend together, through thick and thin, was an absolute delight.

Still, Muna is our viewpoint on the world, and it’s with her we explore Regency Britain once again. Well, actually, we begin at Janda Baik, near the straits of Malacca The text brings to life the myths of the area – sometimes literally, with a vividly realised originality. The warmth and life of the island on which Muna and her sister find themselves has a constant dynamic thrum, and it’s brushed into being with care and vitality. The contrast of an island where power lives informally with its dependents, and cheek-by-jowl with its own mythology, is contrasted cleverly with the more formal, colder, more regimented world of Regency England, where Muna finds herself after something of a mishap while trying to trace her identity.

Identity is something of an issue here, actually. Muna is looking for who she is, but the English are more than happy to try and craft a role for her, layering on colonial expectations as well as gendered and social ones. Muna I thought, was expected to be a magicienne, of a strange  (to the English), far away tradition, and to be at once a divergence from the expected role of women and one of its exemplars. Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t take this overly well. Still, it means we get to see Regency society once again – the parties where people are willing to talk about what dress someone’s wearing, the scandal of that one fellow who is up to his ears in debt, and of course, that cousin who ran away to join the faerie court, or, more scandalously, that daughter who now does magic. That baroque sense of style is back, and it wraps around the text, giving it a style and grandeur of the period. We do get to see more of the faerie realm as well, an odd, ineffably cruel place, where nothing is quite what you’d expect.

Muna is going into these places looking for herself. What she finds may be something else entirely.
The plot takes a while to get rolling, but don’t let the gentle tone of the characters disguise the scheming and steel which lies beneath. By the mid point I was intrigued to see what happened next, and where it was all going. By the last quarter, you would have had to pry it from my hands to stop me getting to the end.

This is a clever, thoughtful book. It explores a lot of interesting ideas around identity, gender, and empire. It draws and builds some marvellous relationships, which feel vivaciously human. And it’s a book which is hopeful, and a genuine balm for the soul. If you’re new to the series, maybe read Sorcerer to the Crown first; but I’d say if you’ve read the first book, you know what you’re getting into – this one is a delight, and worth your time.
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The True Queen, Zen Cho: This is a straight up fun romp of a sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown. It’s the kind of sequel where main characters from the last book show up in minor roles, new characters are centered, and the world is expanded, which is the kind of sequel I love. We get more of Mak Genggang here, and Malaysian systems of magic, and their spirits’ response to the western system of magic (a particularly notable line has a character saying that someone is asking for favors like the Dutch ask for land), and more of a post colonial response to definite colonial goings on. We also get a lesbian couple (and they spend most of the book being clueless around each other which is one of my favorite trope of all time) front and center in the book. It’s just a fun, good read, and some days, that’s what you need above all else.  You can read this even if you didn’t read the original (though I will recommend doing so, because it’s also pretty fantastic.) Fun, funny, and an overall great read. 

Pick this up when it comes out in March, you won’t regret it.
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I loved Sorcerer to the Crown so I was so happy to find out that there was going to be a sequel. And I liked this better than the first book. It helps that we didn't have to deal with the horribleness of English gentlemen as this deals more with the horribleness of fairies. The characters are a delight. My only problem was that when the book ended I wanted more. I will hope that there will a surprise third book in the series in a couple of years.
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This entertaining fantasy tells the story of two sisters - Muna and Sakti - who washed up on the beach of Janda Baik without any memories of their past. They are taken in by Mak Genggang, primary witch of the island. Sakti becomes an apprentice magician while Muna, having no magic, finds work in the kitchen. 

Muna is determined to break the curse on her sister but Mak Genggang can't do it. She decides to send them to England and her friend the Sorceress Royal in hopes that she can break the curse. She sends them on a path through faerie to save them the year-long sea voyage. Only Muna and Sakti are separated and on Muna manages to arrive in England. 

Muna needs to hide her lack of magic and find a way to rescue her sister. But faerie is closed from England and the queen of the fae has declared war on England. It seems that a magical ornament has been stolen and she is convinced that the culprit is in England. 

As Muna learns more about the conflict and more about the past she doesn't remember, she makes friends with Henrietta Stapleton who is teaching at the academy for young women learning magic. Henny is a good friend of the Sorceress Royal. She is also hiding her magic from her family since it is not at all socially acceptable for a woman to use magic. 

Muna also gets involved with dragons in her quest to find her sister and finds herself on a rescue mission to save a mortal magician kept confined in the dragon lands until he can be gifted to the fairy queen as a snack and in reparation for the dragons having lost the queen's ornament. 

This was a fun story with entertaining worldbuilding and a nicely developed main character in Muna. Fans of fantasy will enjoy this story.
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Just as good as Sorcerer to the Crown, perhaps a bit better in some regards. My only complaint is that Prunela and Zacharias don't figure into the plot much, but I loved the new characters and new situations. If ever there's a third book, I hope Henrietta plays a major part.
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This is another delightful book in the series. I love how it really opens up the world, which was already pretty open. I love getting to see beyond England and the magicians and thaumaturges of the first book, expanding our viewpoints. And the characters continue to be wonderful; I like that we start getting to know more of them.
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I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

I adored the first Sorcerer Royal book and I've anticipated this sequel for years. Therefore, I was surprised when I had more difficulty getting into it and found important elements of the plot predictable.

Muna and Sakti wash ashore in Malaysia without any memories. They are soon taken in by a powerful local witch, where it becomes clear that Sakti is magically gifted and Muna is not. When the sisters' investigation into the mysteries around them results in trouble, the witch hustles them off to England where they hope the new Sorceress Royal will help--but on the short cut through fairy land, Sakti vanishes. Muna arrives in England, determined to find her sister.

What works: The characters are fantastic. I love the diverse perspectives throughout the book, with Muna's voice shining the brightest. Prunella (the lead from the first book) plays a role throughout and is a joy to visit again. Muna's growing friendship with Henrietta feels natural and charming. The banter made me giggle at times; this really nails the regency-era wit.

What faltered: The start of the book felt slow and awkward to me, including a rather odd long flashback. But even once Muna arrived in England, I found myself pulled toward other books rather than continuing this one. The story became more engaging once characters carried their investigation to fairy realms and Muna and Henrietta's partnership grew stronger. Some of the big secrets of the book--like Muna and Sakti's past--were surprisingly blatant early on; the big climax of the book didn't feel that big because of that. There were some strange point-of-view shifts through the book, too; a few chapters from the view of Henrietta's sister were charming but felt totally unnecessary within the main plot.

In the end, I enjoyed the book, but I can't help but feel a bit let down, too.
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My Review:  Although I didn't read the first book I didn't feel to confused on what was going on.  I read a few reviews about what happened in book one and that really worked for this one. I will totally be reading the first book when I get a chance but this one was very good.  I loved the world and the characters and a great fantasy!! This felt like a blend of a few other books in the same genera but man was it so good. 


Go Into This One Knowing: Fantasy, Fine to Read Alone
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I enjoyed the world that this books is set - a bit of a mashup of Regency, fairy tales (the real, unsanitized kind) with some mixing in of Malaysian customs, languages and settings. The story is entertaining but rather slight - I don't really feel I ever get past the first layer on any of the characters. It's a lot of telling, not a lot of showing.
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Cho’s fun follow-up to Sorcerer to the Crown is more comedy of errors than an unfolding story with surprises but I enjoyed the slightly different magical focus with interesting times in Fairy, as well the chance to see how Prunella and Zacharias are getting on. This story features Muna and her sister Sakti, Malaysian foundlings who are sent to England for magical training. On the journey Sakti is lost in Fairy and from then on Muna is trying to figure out how to retrieve her sister either with the aid of the English magicians or through her own stubborn courage. The culture clashes with Regency trappings made this an entertaining read.
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If you liked the first book, there is plenty to like here. I felt that any surprises that might have been had were given away in the prologue, which means the book was mostly a comedy of errors, manners, and misunderstandings. I would have enjoyed a few twists along the way, but still had fun with the flow of language and polite conversations, and liked seeing many characters from book 1 from a tangential view.
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I adored the different combinations of cultures and magic systems. It was fresh, intriguing, and left me very satisfied. This author has an amazing imagination, which spills out onto the page.
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A worthy sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown. Just a warning Prunella and Zacharias do make an appearance but in a very limited capacity, which actually bodes well for the story. Instead, this novel opens with two sisters, Muna and Sakti, washing up on the sores of Janda Baik with no memory of who they are. To make matters worse,  Sakti seems to be under the effects of a curse and her body slowly disappears. Muna on the other hand possesses no powers. Mak Genggang, the witch of the island, decides to send the two sisters to the Royal Sorceress, who since the last novel has established an academy to teach thaumaturgy to women. However on route to the academy, Sakti and Muna are separated and Muna is forced to venture into England alone. 

This wouldn't be a problem except that Muna has no magical capabilities to speak of. Unable to contact Mak Genggang, Muna desperate to find her sister pretends to have magical abilities. Of course this deception would have been discovered if it wasn't for the Queen of Fairy, who stirs up some trouble by threatening to kill all the magic users in England. Unfortunately, someone stole an important amulet and the queen believes that an English magician is the culprit. As the story progresses, Muna realizes that the amulet and the disappearance of Muna's sister are more closely tied together than she originally thought. So, she must track down this amulet, pretend to wield magic and uncover a forgotten secret. 

Like the first book, I think this novel illustrates Colonial England in way that is subtle but also powerful. Muna and Sakti are both Malaysian and this of course means that Muna is often viewed as exotic in England. For example, Henrietta's mother is immediately fascinated with a foreign sorceress and wants to touch/introduce her to all of society. These type of situations perfectly illustrate how seemingly innocuous behavior is still an issue. My only complaint is that these types of incidents/behaviors could have featured more prominently and perhaps been commented on. Lastly, the ending of this book sealed it's four star rating. The romance that ensues is absolutely expected and unexpected in an adorably hilarious way. As usual, I cannot wait to see what the third book holds.
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A tepid follow-up to Sorcerer to the Crown, which I really enjoyed. Zacharias and Prunella are minor characters in The True Queen, and the main characters in this one are not nearly as interesting. Also, the way the magic worked (especially involving the true nature of the True Queen) didn't resonate with me. 

I'll read another book set in this world if it's about Zacharias and Prunella; otherwise, probably not.

I read an advance reader copy of The True Queen from Netgalley.
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Highly enjoyable. While I was expecting another story from Prunella's perspective, I was immersed in Muna and Sati's story. It was worth the wait. Queer friendly as well! Overall, this was a fun read and I can't wait for more from Cho.
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Zen Cho's follow up to "Sorcerer to the Crown" (2015) was one I was eagerly awaiting and it didn't disappoint. In "The True Queen", Muna and her sister Sakti wake up on the shore of Janda Baik, cursed and suffering from amnesia. They are taken in by the great Malaysian witch Mak Genggang, who sends them to England to be helped by the Sorceress Royal. Unfortunately, the Queen of Fairy has declared war on England, and Muna is caught in the middle of it. Solving that problem as well as ridding Muna and Sakti of the curse takes quite of bit of delightful adventuring, magic, and self-discovery. Readers can delight in catching up with the cast of the previous book, or simply enjoy the story of Muna.
Cho walks a fine line in the book, balancing the charming personalities of her characters with the high stakes of the plot. Even at its darkest, the book retains its light tone and sense of place. The incorporation of the Malayasian characters and magic is well done and makes for a much more interesting tale. Cho acknowledges the historical realities of Regency England and colonial attitudes while still writing a wonderfully diverse book, full of engaging characters of all sorts of backgrounds. I personally find Cho's books to be refreshing: in a world of so much dark, apocalyptic fiction, to have a cast characters and story that you would want to sit down to a cup of tea with is such a wonderful change. I can't wait for more books set in this world.
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This book was received as an ARC from Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and Thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

This was the first book I have read in a long time that it took a while to get into. It wasn't until almost beyond halfway into the story that I really started to be pulled in and really fully grasp the full plot of the book. Once I got into the story, I could not stop. This book was really enticing from the climax all the way to the ending. This book also was filled with unexpected twists that you will never see coming and once they hit, the story takes a whole new turn.

We will consider adding this book to our Historical Fiction section at our library. That is why we give this book 3 stars.
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I loved Sorcerer to the Crown, so I had high hopes for The True Queen. Unfortunately, I felt a bit let down by this sequel. The plotting seems to have a stuttering pace, Sakti is never fully realized as a character, and the romance was barely hinted at until the very end, so it came as a sudden surprise. I still like the universe, but I felt this one lacked the oomph of the first book.
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