Member Reviews

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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I was ready and rearin' to love this book, and maybe my expectations were too high. I liked it but did not love it. Now, I do love the premise: there are portals to other worlds. They exist, just like in fairy tales. All we have to do is find them. That's something we can all relate to, right? But the execution felt a tad off for me.

The protagonist is young Eva, an American who travels with her mom to visit her Grandmother in England for the first time ever. Soon, she realizes that her regal Grandmother was once a queen in fairy land.

Positives: Complex female relationships—whoooo-wheeee. Women. We can be weird. We don't always treat each other right, and this book is packed with strong females who all seem to have fraught relationships with one another. This didn't detract from the book at all and was one of the highlights for me.

Negatives: The writing wasn't as immersive as I'd hoped. The pacing of the plot did drag a bit for me. I found myself wondering more than once, "Where is this going?" Eva was always finding clues and making little discoveries, but they all seemed a tad disjointed. I couldn't see how the story was building to any sort of climax. The chapter-ending Ternival tales (fictional excerpts from a book of fairy tales) were a little hard to follow. It was a lot of new information.

In terms of content, I wouldn't hesitate letting any teenager read this. There's nothing graphically scary or violent, and there is a sweet romance but it's very much a side note until the end, and even then, there's just a hint.

Thank you to NetGalley and WaterBrook for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I recently had the pleasure of delving into this book, and I am beyond impressed with the mesmerizing world that the author has crafted. From start to finish, the intricate plot weaves a tapestry of suspense, emotion, and unexpected twists that kept me eagerly turning the pages.

One of the standout features of this book is undoubtedly its characters. Each one is meticulously developed, breathing life into the narrative with their unique personalities, motivations, and flaws. The protagonists are not just names on paper; they are relatable, complex individuals with whom readers can form a genuine connection. The antagonist, too, is not a mere foil but a multi-dimensional force that adds depth to the story. The author's ability to create such well-rounded characters is a testament to their storytelling prowess.

The plot unfolds seamlessly, drawing the reader into a richly layered narrative that expertly balances tension, drama, and moments of poignant reflection. The pacing is impeccable, maintaining a perfect rhythm that keeps the reader engaged without sacrificing the depth of the story. The author skillfully navigates through various plot arcs, interweaving them with finesse to create a cohesive and satisfying whole.

What sets this book apart is its ability to tackle profound themes while maintaining an accessible and engaging narrative. The book seamlessly combines suspense and emotional depth, making it a truly immersive experience. The author's prose is both elegant and evocative, painting vivid imagery that lingers in the reader's mind long after the final page is turned.

As I reached the conclusion, I found myself yearning for more from this talented author. Their ability to craft a gripping plot and bring characters to life is truly commendable. I eagerly anticipate future works and would wholeheartedly recommend this book to any reader who appreciates a masterfully told tale. If you're searching for a book that seamlessly blends captivating characters with a compelling plot, this is a shining example. I can't wait to explore more literary worlds crafted by this exceptional storyteller.

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4 Stars! Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC!

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this book. A girl visits England for the first time with her mom who left before the girl was born only to be greeted with a semi-standoffish grandmother and many many secrets.

I do wish it hadn't been so repetitive where Eva would ask about something, she would be told she shouldn't know the answer, and then Eva just breezes right past it. It happened so many times that I just got so frustrated with the adults in Eva's life. Either tell her or don't, but don't go around being all "if it wasn't for the bonfire" "what bonfire?" "you don't need to know about the bonfire."

But what I loved? Eva. Hands down she was such a great main character without main character syndrome. I loved her tenaciousness and her love for her family.

And the end? I get this is from a Christian author and marked as Christian Fiction (which....it wasn't really), but can we have a little bit of a romance? Pls. I get the focus was on (plot point) happening, but come on.

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This is another unremarkable read. It was okay and I finished it but I wasnt very excited about it. An easy book to put down and forget about. Although its not dark academia, it did remind me somewhat of those types of stories so if that is what you enjoy, you should give this book a try. I am also not a fan of Alice in Wonderland so I probably was not the right audience for this book.

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It gives strong The Hazel Wood vibes. I loved the atmosphere,the MC was curious and brave,and the fairy tale like settling have me swooning. Thank you net galley for having my opinion on this book !

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This was such a delightful read!

Fans of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Keepers of the Lost Cities will enjoy this first book in a new series.

I do feel it's more a middle-grade read than the YA fiction it's advertised as; Eva seems much more junior-higher than high-schooler for much of the book. And, Arthur is obviously a Lewis/Narnia fan--which is great--but it takes a while for the book to really stand on its own and separate itself from Narnia. The last 40% in particular is the book's excitement and strength; I only wish there was more of that part!

I hope that subsequent installments carry the success and story forward. I'll definitely check them out, and am looking forward to it!

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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The premise of this was very compelling and perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mental space, but this was hard for me to get into/follow. I liked the characters and the setting, but I think where I struggled was with the tales of the other world - I just didn’t follow and it burdened my reading of the novel as a whole.

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This one pleasantly surprised me. I wasn't really sure what to expect but I knew from Arthur's non-fiction work she was a wonderful wordsmith and fascinated by the fantasy realm.

This book is written for younger people and it would be fun to read it to some young teens to gauge their reaction. It's sometimes strange as an adult to read younger people's fiction as we may have lost some of that innocence and wonder of being a kid.

Eva Joyce is a 14 year old American who's landed in the midlands of England to visit the grandmother whom she's never met. Her mother, Gwendolyn is taking her as she's on the hunt for some relics that might assistant her husband in his research. This will also be her mother's first time back at her family home having left in some shocking circumstances all those years ago.

They arrive at this old castle, Carrick Hall. It resides on a large property with lush gardens that have life-sized topiaries cut into fairytale creatures such as centaurs and the like. Little does Eva know what awaits her.

The story moves at a solid pace. I know some reviewers felt it a bit slow but it's not long before Eva becomes curious about the history of the Hall, the various family members who resided there and the strange happenings that occur at midnight most nights when the stars come out.

Mystery fills every nook and cranny of this place and it's one of the exciting elements of the story. As Eva and her newfound friend, Frankie, explore the castle and its surrounds, we hold our breaths in anticipation of something wonderful making an appearance. It's one element of what makes fairytales so special - that sense of anticipation.

One of the interesting aspects of the story is the fairytale within the fairytale as I regard it. At the end of each chapter we get a short glimpse of another world: the fairytale world of Terinval, which happens to be based on a book that Eva has read. At first, I found this an odd devise, almost distracting as I didn't really see the point of it. However, as the main story unfolds, Arthur brings the two together in a clever way.

Unlike some fairytales, Arthur deals with the subject of family trauma which she manages delicately. The pain the generations of women experience: Grandmother Flora, Gwendolyn and Eva is fascinating to explore as we move through this story of an enchanted world and magical stags. I appreciated how Arthur wove this through the story.

Talking about weaving, it to is a theme of the story and is one Arthur's key devices for juggling the various bits and pieces she is grappling with as the storyteller. Once again, she 'weaves well' and we are left with a sense of childlike wonder and hope for the future.

I throughly enjoyed 'Once a Queen' and I notice there is a second story in the works, 'Once a Castle' which I'm very much looking forward to.

I'm very fortunate to have received an early ebook copy of the story from Waterbrook via Net Galley, however, this has had no bearing on my review.

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