Cover Image: Once a Queen

Once a Queen

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

When is Eva is 14, her and her mother spend the summer at her grandmother’s manor in England. Eva has never been to her grandmother’s home before, nor has she ever met her. It doesn’t take long before Eva realizes that there is much that she’s never been told about her family’s history. And as she works to uncover the story of her family, she finds it harder and harder to separate that story from her favorite fairytales of the magical land of Ternival. Eva is much too old to believe in fairytales…but as the evidence mounts she finds she is also much too smart not to believe. Could the tapes of Ternival really be true? And could there still be ways to get there from this world?

This book was a really nice set up for a series. It took a while for me to get into it, I understand that there is a lot of world building and backstory that has to go into a book like this, but that happened at a slightly slower pace than I would have liked. However, by the end I was sold. I really liked the way the author wrapped up this book, it was a great ending that made me appreciate parts of the story in a new way. This is the type of book that I grew up on and would be a great book for young readers. One that I would definitely suggest to my own children.

This book has Chronicles of Narnia vibes. It specifically reminded me of the first book in that series, The Magician’s Nephew

(I will add this review to my Instagram page once it gets closer to the publication date!)

Was this review helpful?

"Once a Queen" is the first book in a ya fantasy series written by Sarah Arthur, currently in progress.

The story follows 14-year-old American Eva Joyce, who in 1995 unexpectedly finds herself spending the summer at Carrick Hall, the mysterious manor house of the equally mysterious English grandmother she has never met. Bewildered and curious, Eva cannot help but wonder why her parents have been so long estranged from her grandmother. When strange things start happening in the gardens at night, Eva turns to the elderly housekeeper, the gardener, and the gardener's grandson, Frankie, for answers. Astonishingly, they all seem to believe that Eva's favorite childhood fairy tales are true and that her grandmother was once a queen in another world. But her grandmother's heart, after various traumatic events, is closed to the beauty and pain of the past. So now it is up to Eva to discover the truth. Can relations between Eva's family be restored? Do portals to other worlds really exist? As she searches for answers, Eva finds herself uncovering dangerous secrets and wrestling with regret for a vanishing childhood, all while facing the fear that growing up means giving up fairy tales forever.

Wow, this story moved me so much! I found it a sweet, evocative and magical read, that touched me repeatedly and kept me glued to the pages. I sensed strong references to "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C. S. Lewis and "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett, works from which the author herself claims to have been inspired, which increased my appreciation for the book even more. I admit I didn't think it could grab me so much, but instead it won me over with its tenderness and cozy atmosphere!

I liked the writing a lot! Evocative, lyrical and intense, I found it beautiful. I was fascinated by the sophistication of the words, the vivid descriptions, all without weighing down the narrative. In fact, for me, the style comes across as simple and light, extremely immediate and easy to follow. I found the descriptions really effective and incisive, carefully outlined, almost like a painting. I had no difficulty imagining the various settings and I was definitely delighted! The prose in my opinion is deep, emotionally charged and involving, so much so that I was moved to read certain scenes and yes, I cried. In general, it gave me the feeling of a fairy tale, suffused with magic and mystery, which really warmed my heart!

The setting is stunning! The story takes place mostly at Carrick Hall, an ancient and enigmatic manor house in the West Midlands, seemingly cold and gray. A huge multi-story building, full of rooms, many of them locked or empty, filled with secret passages and laden with fascinating artwork. An estate enveloped in well-kept gardens, vegetable gardens and orchards, over which stand masterpieces of topiary art, in the forms of common animals, but also more bizarre creatures such as centaurs, dryads and more. All depicted masterfully! I loved Carrick Hall, as well as the quaint nearby villages and the picturesque English countryside! It all seemed so charming, so placid, that I felt a sense of being suspended in time. I can understand how the protagonist was captivated by the landscape! A beautiful and serene place, but at the same time poignant and melancholy, which sent me into jujubes. To the setting of our world then is added that of another world, with decidedly fairy-tale and enchanted tones, which I loved very much. I found it all highly cozy and wonderful!

The plot proceeds lightly and smoothly, with short chapters that entice the reader to continue. It is not an action-packed story, but rather a story charged with feelings. It is a tale about lost and found family ties, sorrows and regrets, the difficult transition from childhood to adolescence, beliefs and convictions. Added to this are the mystery elements concerning the strange phenomena occurring at the mansion and the figure of an enigmatic theologian and the fantasy element, related to the presence of portals to other worlds. Furthermore, the book becomes a kind of story within the story, with the fable of this other world. A world about which I cannot say anything, to avoid spoilers, but which I enjoyed immensely! The narration takes its time, unhurriedly, with an ending that I found satisfying. It was a story that warmed my heart, that made me feel held in a warm embrace, that for a few hours took me away from the daily grind of life and immersed me in lovely, cozy places where I felt really good. Seriously, I loved this book and can't wait to read the sequel!

I really liked Eva, the protagonist and only first-person pov! Eva is a 14-year-old American girl who, in 1995, moves from Connecticut to the West Midlands to spend the summer at Carrick Hall and meet her maternal grandmother who she has never met before. Eva is a curious and talkative young girl, nosy and full of questions, passionate about fairy tales and with a great imagination. I loved her characterization, but especially her development. Eva in fact has to face the difficult transition from childhood to adolescence, and this scares her because she fears that growing up means giving up fairy tales forever. I felt particularly connected to her, to her reflections, and on more than one occasion I was moved.

But the character that affected me the most is the grandmother! I cried so much for her, because she is a woman who has been through so much and it has marked her deeply. She is such a melancholy, lonely and tormented character that I just wanted to hug her and comfort her. She is not an easy woman, her cold and sometimes brusque attitude certainly does not make her lovable, however, she moved me to the highest levels.

The rest of the secondary characters, including the elderly housekeeper, the gardener, and sweet young Frankie, convinced me completely! I found them extremely comfortable and reassuring, so much so that I became attached to them. They are highly expressive characters who added to the pleasant feeling of coziness that the book conveyed to me.

All in all, I found it a delightful ya fantasy, full of feelings, enchantments and mysteries, which I recommend to lovers of the genre!

Thank you to the Publisher and NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

The story opens with some nice world-building that pulls you into the narrative just as we reach a turning point in the narrator's story. The way magic is introduced to the story seems perfect for the mysterious setting, and the characters are immediately intriguing and, often, lovable. I wish the chapters were longer because the breaks pull me out of the flow of the story a little, but the writing is good enough to make it easy to stay interested.

The mystery of what the truth really looks like is slowly teased out over the course of the story, and the pace of revelation is really well done. I stayed engaged throughout, and felt like the magic of the story kept things moving as more of the secrets were revealed.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Was this review helpful?

Sarah Arthur does a great job in creating this world and keeping me engaged with everything that was going on. I loved the idea of this story and that it had everything that I was looking for. It had a great mysterious feel to it and worked as a opening to this young adult series. It left me excited to read more in this series and from Sarah Arthur.

Was this review helpful?

Full disclosure - I’m not religious, nor was I raised with religion. Therefore it may surprise to know that growing up, The Chronicles of Narnia was my favorite book series. To the degree that one of my daughters has the name Aravis.

The synopsis for Once a Queen (a Narnia phrase), reminded me so much of what Susan's later story might have looked like that I had to read it. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy.

YA - fantasy, combined with mystery and coming of age, Once A Queen is an enjoyable read - for young adults and up; I liked this one a lot and I’m looking forward to the upcoming titles in this series.

Recommended.



Thank you to WaterBrook and NetGalley for the DRC

Was this review helpful?

Once a Queen is a story for those who grew up hoping to find Narnia. It explores what it would be like to continue on after visiting a magical world, and what it's like to *not* get to visit the magical world.


WHAT I LIKED:

-I really appreciated how Arthur didn't have Eva become disenchanted with Earth (SPOILER ahead) after her visit to Ternival. I was worried that that was going to happen after all of Eva's dreaming of Ternival. I mean, we live in a pretty magical world when you think about it. =)

-(slight SPOILER ahead) While I'm pretty sure that some readers will wish for Eva to have had more page time in Ternival, I liked how Arthur explored the "after-the-magical-adventure"---most portal fantasies don't do that, so it added a unique element.

-The strong family connections were really refreshing for YA novel.


WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH:

-Personally, the Narnia vibes were a little too strong for my personal taste. I would have preferred it to feel a little more original.

-This is a little silly, but the old English speech of Ternival felt a little cliche. Why do fantasy worlds need to have old English?

-The majority of the book is in past tense, while the last few chapters are in present tense. The switch between tenses and time didn't throw me off. But there are a couple of times during the past-tense part of the book where Eva makes a comment along the lines of "I didn't know then..." that threw me off. It wasn't a big thing, but it jolted me out of the narrative whenever it happened.


OTHER:

- (SPOILER ahead) So... the plot thread with Mindra felt off. Until I finished the eARC and there was a preview of book two, I thought that Once a Queen was a standalone. So I'd initially thought that the plot thread of Mindra getting one of the gems and regaining power had been introduced only to be dropped. However, I'm now assuming that it is going to be part of the overarching series plot. If so, I think that maybe could have been made a little clearer so that it doesn't feel like a dropped plot thread.

OVERALL:

While I'm glad I read Once a Queen, I don't see it being a book I reread. However, that's mostly due to my own personal preferences and stylistic choices. But I can see fans of Narnia or more "classic" portal fantasy novels along the same style enjoying this one.


CAUTIONS: super mild romance

Was this review helpful?

Pure fantasy a mix between The Narnia Chronicles and Secret Garden along with The White Stag.
Very nicely done by new to me author Sarah Arthur.
I loved this because of the family secrets and that it was told from Eva's POV. My favorite way of storytelling. I can connect with the characters much better that way.
A story that will make you use your imagination to the fullest!
I think that's why I love Eva's grandma so much. She's definitely an interesting character.
I finished this book in one evening. I wanted to find out what the family secrets were! I wasn't disappointed at all!
5 stars for an interesting read. I highly recommend it!
My thanks for a copy of this book. I was NOT required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Was this review helpful?

When fourteen-year-old American Eva Joyce unexpectedly finds herself spending the summer at the mysterious manor house of the English grandmother she’s never met, troubling questions arise: Why have her parents been so long estranged from her grandmother? What secrets are the manor staff—and the house itself—hiding?

I thought this was really well done. It’s the story of the grandmother after leaving the Narnia/Wonderland world she was queen of, and the granddaughter trying to decipher the family secrets surrounding the secret world of her childhood stories. I wish the mom wasn’t so secretive - she kept saying she didn’t want to dig up all the old family secrets but she seemed perfectly happy telling the husband about all of it. I feel like there’s still a whole lot that Eva doesn’t know and I’m very excited to see what more she finds out.

Was this review helpful?

As a long time fan of the world-within-the-world trope, I was really excited for this one. Unfortunately I just never connected to it. I found the fairy tale excerpts to have a stilted tone and formal language, in a way that made them feel like work, and the contemporary storyline was not all that much more engaging for me personally. The juxtaposition of the two meant just when I would finally feel like I was getting somewhere with the familial storyline, it would be interrupted and I would lose the thread again. This one just didn't work for me

Was this review helpful?

This book reminded me so much of the Chronicles of Narnia! Teens trying to get to a magical world?? Yes please! I also loved the lore that Arthur included at the end of each chapter about Ternival. I thought it was a unique way of describing the history and characters associated with it.

I couldn’t really tell who the intended audience of the book was for. I first thought that it was geared more for young adult since it was following two teens and their journey to uncover family secrets, but the language used with Ternival felt very old English and I had a challenging time reading through it. There were some parts that did feel repetitive. I thought most of the story would take place in Ternival but I was sadly mistaken; I would have liked to read that.

This book was possibly not for me in some aspects. I think it had a lot of enjoyable qualities about it. It did leave me wanting/wishing for more.

Was this review helpful?

In fairytales ordinary kids go to magical words and come back stronger, braver.

A cross between Narnia and The Secret Garden is a story of a girl who visits her estranged grandmother and finds out family secrets of magical worlds. This book however has a strong underlying message of what happens after the kids come back? And the important of having your own story and that you can’t control your own story.

This story was both entertaining and powerful

Was this review helpful?

An American teenager discovers that her estranged English grandmother was once a queen in another world in the debut novel from bestselling author and speaker Sarah Arthur.

This was pretty interesting. I liked the characters and the world-building. I hope there's more.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to Netgalley for an electronic ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

"A mysterious manor house hides the keys to shocking family secrets—and rapidly fading portals to other worlds—in the richly woven opener to bestselling author Sarah Arthur’s young adult fantasy series."

Once a Queen is a beautiful, captivating novel from Sarah Arthur.

A combination coming of age story, portal fantasy, and mystery, this story draws the reader in from the very beginning.

The protagonist Eva, a fourteen year old girl with more questions than answers, realizes if she wants to know the truth of her family's painful past - it will be up to her to discover the truth.

The character relationships, world building and skillful storytelling make this a truly enjoyable reading experience.

My only wish would be to have the characters spend more time in the alternate universe. It felt like this was teased throughout the entire book, and was really only touched upon at the end.

I will definitely be reading any subsequent books in this series!

Was this review helpful?

Once a Queen by Sarah Arthur is a captivating and magical debut novel that takes readers on a thrilling journey through different dimensions. The story follows fourteen-year-old Eva Joyce, who finds herself spending the summer at her mysterious English grandmother's manor house—a grandmother she's never met and from whom her family is estranged.

As Eva delves into the secrets of the manor, strange occurrences in the gardens at night lead her to discover that her grandmother may have been a queen in another world. With the help of the elderly housekeeper, gardener, and the gardener's great-grandson, Frankie, Eva unravels the generational secrets that have kept her family apart. The book weaves together themes of magic, family, and adventure, creating a captivating and enchanting tale.

The characters in Once a Queen are well-developed and add depth and warmth to the story. Eva's journey of self-discovery and growth is beautifully portrayed, and her interactions with Frankie and the other characters are both heartwarming and thought-provoking.

The novel's pace can be a bit uneven at times, with moments of fast-paced excitement alternating with slower, more introspective moments. However, this adds to the book's charm, as it allows readers to immerse themselves in the magic and mystery of the story.

The premise of portals to other worlds and a grandmother's hidden past is intriguing and reminiscent of tales like The Chronicles of Narnia. The book explores themes of family relationships, grief, and the challenges of growing up, making it relatable and impactful for readers of all ages.

Once a Queen also touches on themes of Faith and Christianity, which may resonate with some readers. However, even for those who may not share the same beliefs, the story's magic and adventure are still highly enjoyable.

In conclusion, Once a Queen is a delightful and engaging read that blends magic, family, and self-discovery into a captivating narrative. Sarah Arthur's debut novel is sure to enchant readers with its rich storytelling and memorable characters.

4.2 rounded down to 4/5

Was this review helpful?

This was such a good read! I was fully sucked into the story right away and I really enjoyed the characters. The journey the author took these characters on was exciting and unique which is something I am really interested in with books now. I will be recommending this book to all of my friends and family.

Was this review helpful?

This was a very exciting read bound with magic, family, and adventures through different dimensions!

I had so much fun reading 'Once A Queen'. It was very intriguing with so many adventures occurring and I found myself stuck in the moment. The magic, learning more about the different dimensions and the true story of the MC Eva's grandmother as well as her reign in her kingdom was so beautiful with so many beautiful descriptions!
What I loved the most were the extracts Eva's favorite fairytale which highlighted the story of her grandmothers reign in one of the different worlds other than the one they truly lived in.

There were many interesting and intriguing scenes that had my heart beating erratically.

However, at some points I found that the writing was a bit to drawly... is that even a word? At some points I felt that so many things were going on at once and I couldn't wrap my head around much of the information that was thrown at me. The writing however was quite good in some areas with a good pace.
One other thing, I found the pace to alternate every couple of pages. One second it was fast paced and the next a bit slower which I think had me a bit detached from the story and struggling to read on.

But.. the premise was really interesting and I really enjoyed Arthur's storytelling!

Was this review helpful?

A traditional, magical fantasy with a huge old house, filled with many secrets. I immediately like our protagonist. Also, this author has an excellent command of writing, especially for this genre. You immediately dive into another place, and live there whilst reading. As a sixth grade girl, heavy into my fantasy binge, this would have been an ideal read. I highly recommend for our students needing some fairytale type escapism. Lovely series opener.

Was this review helpful?

This was a fresh take on the "fall into another world"-trope as that bit had already happened to the main characters grandmother. I think I'd categorise this as a nice little summer read. If this trope is something you enjoy I would definitely give it a read. I also liked that we got the backstory simultaneously as the main story. That was done well.

We follow fourteen year old Eva as she visits her grandmother for the first time in another country. Eva quickly finds out that there is something strange going on. Her grandmother has once been the queen of a fantasy kingdom.

A solid little fantasy read. Enjoyable

Was this review helpful?

For anyone who's ever read and loved the Chronicles of Narnia but was less than enthusiastic about its conclusion (and the treatment of Susan!) in the Last Battle, this is the book for you.

Young Eva is crossing the Atlantic ocean to England to meet her maternal grandmother for the first time. Her father is in the final stages of his quest to untangle the academic mysteries of the deceased Professor Kinchurch (which will enable him to secure a proper academic job) so her family is being houses and her mother takes her to England to be out of the way. Her mother and grandmother have a fraught relationship, but as Eva comes to know her grandmother and the other residents of the local village - including gardener Stokes and his grandson Frankie - she begins to realize that her favorite fairy tale author - A.H.W. Clifton - was not making up stories about the magical land of Ternival. Clifton was writing true stories and the people in them included not just Professor Kinchurch but Eva and Frankie's relatives as well.

As Eva (with Frankie's help) begin to unravel their own mysteries, they are confronted with a legacy of loss and heartache and what happens to those left behind when others travel to a magical, far-away realm. As in real life, there are no tidy happily ever afters, but rather messiness and story threads that continue after the author writes "the end."

Was this review helpful?

The writing style was really smooth and so easy to read! I flew through the book!
I could really connect with the main character so that’s definitely a plus point!
The book wasn’t too long and I really liked the plot!

Was this review helpful?