Cover Image: The True Queen

The True Queen

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Member Reviews

We will not be submitting a review for this book. We tried reading it and ultimately DNF it. Usually we don't review books we can't finish reading.
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Not quite a true sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown, but a continuation of the world! Follow Muna as she traverses a forgotten past to rescue her sister who is trapped in the faerie realm. But there is more to them both than meets the eye.
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I read about 100 pages, but I didn't get sucked in to the story the way I did with the prior book. The switch of characters and scope really threw me out, even though I reread the first book before this one. I wanted to love it but it just didn't work for me.
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This was a delightful historical fantasy with a diverse cast of characters and an f/f subplot that made my romance loving heart sing! The True Queen is about sister Muna and Sakti trying to break free from a curse and got separated along the way.
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Unfortunately, I did not get. the chance to read this ARC prior to its release--I'm hoping to work through my backlist now that we're home for the coming weeks!--but we did end up buying this book for the library collection.
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I struggled to finish this book thus writing my review way after the release date. After I looked at it online I realized this is the second book in a series, which is possibly why I was having such a hard time with the book. I think I missed that part when I looked at the description on NetGalley, so I feel as if my review is perhaps not as helpful as it might have been had I realized this. 

With that in mind, I found that it took me a while to get into the book, and that the characters were a little difficult for me to follow. This may be because I was missing pieces that I would be better aware of if I were reading this title after having read the first in the series. 

The story has a lot of fantasy elements and feels imaginative in the way that fantasy adventure stories do. My review is a three stars based on what I read, but I am curious to go back and look at the first book in the series now, and wonder if it might shift my view of this one.
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I'm sorry to say that I wasn't as charmed by The True Queen as I was by the first in this series, Sorcerer to the Crown. Zacharias and Prunella, who I loved in the first installment, do not feature very much in this. Instead, we follow a character with memory loss who is on a dangerous adventure. Not a bad story, but I felt more stressed than enchanted.

Points for historical queerness, though a bit vaguely stated.
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This is a delightful story set within the same world as Sorcerer to the Crown, but following different characters: two sisters, one with magic and one without. The characters are wonderful, there's a great story of undermining power structures, and a sweet romance. Very enjoyable.
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I rushed to read Sorcerer to the Crown in time to read this book. Once I read a blurb about it, I knew I had to read it. A book of sisters, magic, and colonialism, the story is compelling and, and times, terrifying. An absolute must for those who may also enjoy Susanna Clarke and Mary Robinette Kowal's fantasy writing.
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The True Queen is the second installment in author Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown series. This story takes on different character than the first book. There are a few notable exceptions like Prunella Wythe Gentleman and Mak Genggang, but it is Muna and Sakti who are the main characters in this story along with Henrietta Stapleton who just happens to be Prunella's friend. As the opens, readers learn that it has been 2 years since we left Prunella and her now husband Zacharias Wythe the former Sorcerer to the Crown.

Muna and Sakti find themselves on the island of Janda Baik, Straits of Malacca (Malaysia) where they have no memories of how they got here or from before. 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. Mak Genggang ships the sisters off to England, for Sakti to apprentice under the Sorceress Royal Prunella Wythe, 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. Meanwhile, Prunella has been busy avoiding assassination attempts, politics, while also opening an academy for girls. She also has to worry about the Fairy Queen waging war on England's magicians after she is accused of stealing something valuable from the Queen.

Since this story takes place in Regency-era Britain, you will get the usual background about misogynistic men who despise women who play with magic, and those who aren't white, well, how dare Prunella invade their territory! I mean, really! And, to make matters worse, Prunella is married to a man who is even darker than she is! SHAME!! (Sorry if I offended anyone. But, this is what the British shout whenever they are in Parliament. I'm always curious as if one of them will break out the billy club and start a melee.)

In many ways, this story is the complete opposite of Sorcerer to the Crown. We barely see Zacharias, Prunella is more of a secondary character than a primary one, and even more characters like Rollo and Pogo play bit parts in this story. I found the mystery of what happened to Muna and Sakti's mystery pretty quickly. Even though Muna is center stage, it is Sakti who was the more forceful personality, the more strong-willed and impulsive than her meeker and more pensive sibling. 

It was pretty obvious that the author was attempting to appeal to a wider audience with the pairing of certain male and female characters together. I think Henrietta was a fine character all to herself. She has a curious family who she claims doesn't know anything about her magic use, and yet they prove her wrong. Don't ever think you can fool your parents. They will find out one way or the other.
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My love for <i>Sorcerer to the Crown</i> remains unchanged, but my complaint with this sequel is that it barely has any trace of Zacharias and Prunella, who I ship forever. Muna and Sakti just don't have the same power in my imagination, and Mak Genggang is gone too soon. (I 100% wanted a story about the sorceress suffragette movement!)

The romance in the end felt a bit out of the blue - maybe I just missed the signals? And Muna is supposed to be smart, so her missing the glaringly obvious truth about herself seems out of character. It takes away much of the narrative tension of the book's last half.

Anyway, my assessment is purely individual and there are plenty of others who have loved this second book just as much as the first. (It's the reaction of someone who expected something salty and got sweet instead!)
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I immensely enjoyed the author's previous book, "Sorceror to the Crown". I'm a sucker for Regency era fiction, and that book had the additional bonus of interrogating the racism and colonialism inherent in that society.

This book, second in the series, was published four years after the first Sorceror Royal book came out. I also enjoyed it, but its tricks weren't quite as smart.

The book is from the point of view of Muna, one of a pair of sisters who appeared on a Malaysian island with no memory of how they got there. In fact, while they assume they are sisters, there is not hard evidence of that. Sakti, Muna's sister, can do magic, while Muna is entirely unmagical. 

Anyway, Sakti seems to be... fading away somehow and for plot reasons the two sisters must travel to England to seek the help of the Sorceress Royal. And maybe this is where my disappointment was. Zacharias is barely in this book at all, and Prunella is put to the side, since the problem can't be solved too quickly. I really liked these two and I think I wanted more of them specifically, not just a story set in their world. Both of them have very complex issues that they must manage and solve, but that wasn't this book. 

Good news, though, Georgiana and Rollo (the dragons) both get much more screen time! These two probably made me laugh the hardest in the first book, and I richly enjoyed getting more time with dragon society. Yet again, it's a very dog-eat-dog (or dragon-eat-dragon) world here. Power is gained when you consume or pillage a magical beast, and that fact is key to our narrative. Magic is red in tooth and claw and the gruesomeness of it juxtaposed with the niceties of Regency etiquette is jarring, but interesting.

To me, the sisters' issue was pretty obvious and it was pretty obvious what had to be done to fix it. The issue of the sisters' different personalities was interesting to me and I would have liked more about how they resolved their conflicts. 

So, I was disappointed that Zen Cho didn't write the book I wanted to read, but I suppose that is her authorial prerogative. I did enjoy my trip back to this world, and getting more about fairies and dragons is never a bad thing! The plot puzzle was fairly obvious and I was impatient with our characters for not figuring out the answer. Also, there was more representation of own-voices Malaysian characters and a very cute f/f romance, so that goes on the positive side of the ledger.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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
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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.
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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?
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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.
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