Cover Image: Once a Queen

Once a Queen

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Member Reviews

I liked the idea of an American teenager finding out that her estranged English grandmother was once a queen, but after reading some of it, but the ‘strange things’ felt too strange. And I couldn’t understand what the scriptures of nearly every chapter had to do with the story. It was very confusing, and I put it down and never picked it back up after the second chapter.

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Not sure if I can read about a fourteen year old main character. I can hardly stomach more well known young adult fantasies nowadays. I bet this was wonderful though!

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It took me FOREVER to read this book, I just kept putting it down and then sighing whenever I tried to read it again. I didn't want to finish it, but I hate not finishing books.

I get what the huge quotes at the start and end of the chapters were trying to do....but for me I HATED them, they were long and exhausting and didn't intrigue me like they were meant to.

It felt like this book was trying to do so many things at once that it never perfected any of its directions. In summary, it's similar to the story of Narnia....just not fun to read. Towards the end, I started to get into it a bit, but then it jumped around heaps, which made me feel like I had skipped chapters. It felt like things were missing.

Honestly, my favourite part of the book was reading about what inspired the author to write this book. I just don't think the author achieved what they were trying to with this book. I was bored by it.

As I said, the story gives off Narnia vibes, a magical world hidden behind a door. Which is meant to be mysterious and intriguing, but it just comes off as bland. This hidden world is teased the entire book, and nearly no time was spent there. If this was down to create the background work for the next book, it was not done well enough to engage me to even bother with the next book.

I also hated the language choice. It wasn't consistent, and this made it quite jarring. Also, for its target audience, that kind of language is probably going to bore them.

The characters are all very different and had some cool elements about them. I liked the exploring of broken family relationships. But unfortunately, it fell flat again, and I can't say I engaged with any of the characters.

I would recommend this for young teens and up. If you like books with magical worlds and really slow paced "adventure," maybe you'll enjoy it.

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I received an advanced copy of Once a Queen from Netgalley and the publisher and am leaving this review voluntarily.

I will begin this review by saying that I could not finish Once a Queen. Despite my efforts to continue, I couldn't get into the story or the characters enough to want to keep reading. Typically, when I don't finish a book, I will automatically give it one star. However, I don't think that Once a Queen deserves one star.

I went into this book believing the main character was a couple of years older than fourteen. For some reason, when I read the description, my brain didn't process that she was that young, and I didn't realize until I was reading that this was a middle-grade book. While some middle-grade (and young adult) books are made with any readers in mind, this was not that book. It was clearly written for a younger audience, and I believe that is part of the reason I could not finish. Since this is no fault of the book, it's getting the extra star.

Despite that setback, I was still excited to read this story. Portal fantasies have a special place in my heart (The Chronicles of Narnia are still some of my favorite books). However, I was not intrigued by the story. At the end of each chapter were tiny snippets of history for the other world, and I found those two or three paragraphs to be almost more interesting than the entire chapter I had just finished. The story's pacing felt very slow, and it honestly felt like nothing was happening. It wasn't pulling me in the way I wanted it to.

On top of that, the characters were frustrating. I can understand not wanting to tell the newcomer what was happening, but everyone was so close-lipped and closed-off that I didn't find them interesting. I didn't care what happened to them because we had next to no knowledge of anything going on. And I can understand that for a couple of chapters, but I was over 100 pages in and still had no information. There's only so long that I, as the reader, can deal with not knowing, and Once a Queen took me past that point.

I don't think Once a Queen was a bad book, but all of my issues left me feeling that it wasn't the book for me.

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Another reinterpretation of the Narnia books, beautifully written but weak in pacing and world building.

I loved the feel of this book, largely due to the lovely writing and to the well-used but also always lovable general premise behind it.

It’s tempting to recommend this for younger readers because it’s engaging and has no inappropriate content, but the pacing is pretty slow, and the magic isn’t especially well-rendered. I think it’s more likely that this book will hold the attention of an adult reader than a teen or young reader, though I can’t imagine a content issue for any age group.

The trouble with trying to reimagine a Narnia-like plot is that if the world building isn’t top notch and immersive, the fantasy elements of the book are bound to disappoint. This one takes too long to get through the portal, and once we’re there it’s unimpressive. The quest (if you want to call it that) also feels fairly low stakes, and lacks the excitement needed to make up for the very thin sense of place.

Interestingly, the setting for the real world parts of the book is fine—no, better than fine, actually—which is both odd for a fantasy book and also partially feels like it saves the novel from an atmospheric perspective while at the same time making the flaws in the fantasy realm all the more frustrating and apparent.

Still, it’s a sweet, cozy read with no real fatal flaws. A bit disappointing if you need your magic to sparkle and enthrall, but far from the worst portal magic fantasy you’ll encounter.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC to review.

This book’s premise grabbed me from the get-go and I really loved the idea and overall concept.

I really think this could be a fun book for some who are first starting out with fairy tale fantasy retellings, but in the end I felt like there were quite a few things that were just not making sense or not coming full circle like I’d hoped. I would definitely still be interested in reading the sequel to see where the author is going with this world.

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I would wrap this one up as good, not great. It had the bones to be great, but fell a little short in my opinion.

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Unfortunately I really struggled to get through this book. It started off really slow and it was hard to get into. The world building also wasn't great, just average and that didn't help either. It was just very anti-climatic for me.

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I enjoy this book but it's not exactly to my liking. The journey of Eva slowly uncovers her grandmother's secret and her curiosity about everything along with every relationship she builds starting with family and friendship is really pleasing to read about. I do have some issues, especially with the characters and world-building development but it's not really bad more like just mediocre but still acceptable. Also, it turns out there will be a book 2 soon, so I guess I'm a little bit curious about the next journey.

Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this advanced reader copy (arc) in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a cool story, I liked how it had a voice reminiscent of Narnia or those types of fairy tale/adventures/parallel worlds books. I enjoyed the book overall and the audio version is very well done. The characters fit the story perfectly and the story itself was entertaining. I will definitely be looking for the next book in the series.

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Book Review: "Once a Queen" by Sarah Arthur

Rating: 2 Stars

"Once a Queen" by Sarah Arthur tells the story of fourteen-year-old Eva Joyce who uncovers family secrets and hidden portals to other worlds during a summer at her English grandmother's mysterious manor house. The novel promises a blend of mystery, fantasy, and family intrigue.

While the cover of the book is captivating and sets high expectations, the story itself falls short. The narrative unfolds slowly, lacking in significant events that keep readers engaged. The parallels drawn to "The Chronicles of Narnia" are evident, reflecting the author's admiration for C.S. Lewis, but they may feel too derivative for some readers.

The world-building in "Once a Queen" is decent, providing a backdrop for the unfolding secrets and discoveries. However, the execution of the plot leaves much to be desired, failing to deliver a truly immersive experience.

While some aspects of the story may hold promise, such as the concept of hidden portals and family mysteries, the execution falls short of creating a truly captivating narrative. Readers who enjoy slow-paced mysteries with a touch of fantasy may find some enjoyment in "Once a Queen," but those seeking a more dynamic and engaging read may be left wanting.

In conclusion, "Once a Queen" presents an intriguing premise but struggles to deliver a compelling story that resonates beyond its initial setup. While some may appreciate its nods to classic fantasy literature, overall, the book fails to leave a lasting impression that would compel readers to continue with the series.

⚠️This review was written based on personal opinions and experiences with the book. Individual preferences may vary⚠️

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I love how this book pulls a lot of the different Narnia type worlds together and adds a whole new element to it! The story is filled with mystery and secrets as Eva travels to her mother's childhood home and unravels the mystery surrounding her Grandmother. I read this one aloud to my daughter, and we both enjoyed it tremendously!

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The fantasy stories that you grew up hearing, what if it were all true? This book was a beautiful weaving of past and present, fantasy and realty… I absolutely loved it!

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Good book! It was a great concept and I was really looking forward to reading it, but it fell kind of flat for me. There was plenty of intrigue and suspense but I feel like it was missing something. I loved the characters, they were well developed and grabbed my attention and kept me entertained throughout the whole story. I just felt like it needed a better climax, or maybe just a bigger climax or something. I enjoyed the writing though and look forward to reading more from this author!

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4.5 stars

“What we thought was the final chapter is merely the prologue. Think of all the chapters you have yet to tell…”

I don’t normally read fantasy but I am a sucker for well-written stories and if they give off Narniaesque vibes, all the more so. So I jumped at the chance to read Once a Queen by Sarah Arthur, and I’m so glad I did! It’s deliciously reminiscent of all the best fairy tales and great classics such as The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Magician’s Nephew, The Enchanted Castle, and The Secret Garden while retaining a marvelous flavor all its own.

Fourteen-year-old Eva Joyce travels from Connecticut to England with her mother to meet her grandmother for the first time. She’s not sure what kind of reception they’ll get but she’s certainly not expecting the manor house to hold so many secrets. And it’s not just the people of the house who are keeping secrets but also the house itself. Stags and centaurs and dryads, oh my! And much to Eva’s surprise, much of the strange happenings seem to be tied to her grandmother – a woman of mercurial moods, great heartache, and… a regal past? I loved watching Eva and her new friend Frankie try to figure out the truth that all the adults – and the house – are carefully guarding, because I was trying to do the same. I was completely caught up in the magic of it all – the story within a story (which was so cleverly woven into the fabric of the actual story that I was convinced it was a real book and unashamedly went searching for it on Google), the search for the portal to another world, the mysterious stag, and all the other fun elements that made this a book I devoured as quickly as possible.

“Ah, my dear. That is the gift and the burden of it. The only story we’re given is our own.”

The writing and the setting are both beautiful and richly constructed, evoking that sense of wonder that all the best fairy tales do. I highlighted so many lovely quotes that are still lingering with me even though it’s been a couple of days since I finished reading the book. The exploration of grief and loss, framed from an eternal perspective cloaked by the story of Ternival where those we’ve lost are merely hidden for now (I love that perspective!), was quite touching and well-written without being saccharine or heavy-handed. The writing voice is witty (“By chasing a magical stag in my attempts to reach another world. As one does.”) and warm, drawing you quickly into the world the author has spun into existence and keeping you there until the end. An ending which leaves me eager for the next book!

Bottom Line: Once a Queen by Sarah Arthur is a wonderful start to a series I didn’t know I’d been craving. Fantasy and fairy tales combine to remind readers of such beloved characters as Aslan, the kings and queens at Cair Paravel and even Mary Lennox – while still being very much its own novel – and this enchanted tale sparks the ‘what if’ imagination of young and old alike. The story within a story – Eva’s favorite childhood series – came so alive under the author’s pen that I truly thought it was real and I was fascinated with the subplot involving the author (whom I also believed was an actual person). Wonderfully quotable sentences, a richly crafted setting, moving themes, and vivid characters make this a book that you’ll want to read quickly and then read again to savor. A story that reaches a conclusion but isn’t over just yet … I can’t wait for book two!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book)

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dnf at 21%

I really did try to get through this book, I took a long break hoping that I just wasn’t in the mood for it but I did not like the writing style nor the pov.

I personally did not like Eva or her grandmother. I could not connect with Eva, found her very annoying. This whole plot just doesn’t work with me at all it feels a bit to similar to the chronicles of narnia. I don’t care about the whole magic secret world and her trying to figure more about it.

Thanks to NeGalley and the Publisher for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

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This was such a lovely book! There's such a nostalgia at the heart of this story, reminding me of the fantasy stories that I used to read as a child, the wonderful worlds that doors would open, but also with a realistic, more grounded centre, like a story about what comes after, not just the adventure itself. Eva is a phenomenal character, and so is her grandmother, and Arthur's writing is so lyrical and rhythmic that you could find yourself falling straight into the story yourself! If you're a fan of coming-of-age arcs and family drama and portal fantasies, you'll love this one!

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Wonderful story, great character development, great writing! Highly recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it

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The book had a promising premise, but there's plenty of room for improvement. The characters, especially Eva, were likable though! In my opinion, a lot is lacking. I didn't connect with it at all.

Where's the fantasy? I was expecting the story to focus more on the 'fantasy elements' instead of Eva's attempts to reconnect with her grandmother, who is struggling with grief and trauma from past events. My biggest letdown was the world-building. Despite the story taking us to different worlds multiple times, it feels disconnected from the narrative, leaving me wanting more actual exploration.
Additionally, I wish the story had more suspense in the first parts where the mystery was being introduced.

Thank you to NetGalley, Waterbrook, and Sarah Arthur for providing me an ARC of this book.

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This is the magic I have been missing. Eva returns with mother to her mysterious grandmother's estate and finds secrets are what kept her family apart. There are mysterious statues, magical creatures, hidden treasures, and locked doors bursting with truths to be discovered. Book two can't arrive faster!

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