Cover Image: Once a Queen

Once a Queen

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Member Reviews

What fun I had piecing together this quite complex story of the past alongside the story of a mystical realm laden with secrets of 14 year old Eva’s grandmother who she is just meeting for the first time. I was entranced with the interwoven stories that emerged as Eva (and the reader) learn new information that helps us understand the secrets that have shaped and, at times, torn apart a family and their friends. I ended up rating this work three stars though because, along with some repetitiveness, I found myself skimming the pure fantasy passages that started each chapter as I found them distracting and overly complicated, which, in the end, came off as pretentious.

Thank you to WaterBrook & Multnomah, WaterBrook, Netgalley, and the author for early access to this creative novel.

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About this book:

“When fourteen-year-old 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 the estrangement? What's with the house's employees and their guarded secrets? Why must Eva never mention trains, her father, or her favorite childhood fairy tales?
After strange things start happening in the gardens at night, Eva turns to the elderly housekeeper, gardener, and the gardener's great-grandson, Frankie, for answers. Astonishingly, they all seem to believe the fairy tales are true--that portals to other worlds still exist, though hidden and steadily disappearing. They suspect that Eva's grandmother was once a queen in one of those worlds.
But Eva's grandmother denies it all. After a horrific family tragedy when she was young, her heart is closed to the beauty and pain of her past. It's up to Eva, with Frankie's help, to discover what really happened, whether family relationships can be restored, and if the portals are closed forever. As she unravels generational secrets, Eva wrestles with the grief of a vanishing childhood--and the fear that growing up means giving up fairy tales forever.”

Series: Book #1 in a new series. (As of posting this review, I do not know the title of the series.)

Spiritual Content- A Scripture is mentioned, but called a saying rather than a Scripture (“they did not wish to throw their pearls before swine, as the saying goes”); Church going (Eva comments all on the up-and-down standing and sitting in the English church); Eva is disappointed that her grandmother doesn’t go to church with them (it’s implied that she hasn’t gone for many years); Eva’s family have been regular (“if not particularly involved”) churchgoers; There is a giant stag that could represent God/Jesus and it’s said that the stag was strong and “so present in times of dire need” (which makes Eva wonder about her grandmother’s position on disliking the stag & lack of protection for loved ones during an event); Mentions of churches, church going, hymns, priests, services, & stained-glass widows; Mentions of theologians; A few mentions of a monastery (but it’s not said who they worship); A mention of prayers (at a church); A mention of midnight mass at a church for Christmas Eve;
*Note: This is a portal fantasy book meaning there are hidden entrances to other realms/worlds & this is a main focus on the book with many, many mentions of it; The God-like creator of the world called “Magister the World-Weaver” created a flat world and brought forth “animals to roam the land, birds to soar the skies, and sea-beasts to ply the waters. So, too, did he make strange creatures, which, in other worlds, are the stuff of legend. Dryads and dwarves, satyrs and centaurs, and wise animals of every kind” (similar to the events in Genesis 1), later calls people from another world (“Tellus” who he created after his own likeness) to steward his new world (then they were called “The Children of Tellus”), & has an eternal palace in the mountains beyond all words (called “Inspiria”); In the realm called “Ternival”, there’s those who are good and evil; There are gems that have power and are able to sing (when not in use and buried under the ground, their power goes stronger when rediscovered; They are also called “magic”); When those gems are touched, it can take someone into another world, *Spoiler* we see this happen to Eva’s friend and he comes back very shaken after an incident with an evil character’s voice *End of Spoiler*; Eva has recently accepted that there are no portals to other realms, but still hopes they exist and go hunting for answers about portals when at her grandmother’s manor; Some other characters (including adults) believe in portals and some do not; One character & Eva discuss portals being like tunnels, magic paintings, frames, doors that open when they didn’t before, wardrobes, railway platforms, and even amulets and magic carpets; It’s said that another realm calls to others & there’s a loud horn that compels you to follow it; There is the recounting of a powerful enchantress in another realm who uses a powerful enchantment to freeze everyone in place & also mentions of her evil arts; Seeing a giant stag that comes out of a tapestry, trees turn into humans and dance (dryads), & topiaries come to life (up to semi-detailed); The stag also fights off an evil storm (up to semi-detailed); A talking wolf is recounted in a story (implied to be history rather than just a story); A woman is confused at times of what world she is in (*Spoilers* Eva’s grandmother who, after tragedies, has signs of confusion & wanders around at night thinking she’s locked out of another realm; She also gets Eva confused for her sister and Eva plays along, trying to follow the giant stag and find a portal; It’s said that it’s like Eva’s grandmother is under a spell or bound by a “powerful enchantment” *End of Spoilers*); Eva feels as if the stag is supposed to protect them, but her grandmother doesn’t think so *Spoiler* because of her loved ones following him and still dying in accidents, she’s angry with him and it’s up to her at the end to eat a pear (which seems to symbolize accepting that there’s another world (could be considered Heaven) out there)) *End of Spoiler*; Others view the stag as very important & say to trust the stag because it’s the only thing that you can trust; *Big Spoilers* Towards the end, Eva finds a portal door and does not go in due to her grandmother’s pleading; Later, Eva begs to be let into a portal and is given access where she see many different fantasy-like creatures, talking animals, & feels ashamed of how she treated a friend, to which someone says not to worry because everyone felt that way at first and that it doesn’t matter there; It’s said that everyone are queens and kings there & that everyone has a throne, but they have to claim it (or claim it again if they no longer believe like Eva’s grandmother; Eva asks if she can’t choose it for her grandmother and is told that it’s her grandmother’s choice); Eva also meets those who have passed away & is told that they “never left” their loved ones (implied to be Heaven); The stag also talks to Eva and says that “for not everything is thine to know” when she asks questions and adds “nor hast the time yet come to make they dwelling in the Palace Beyond the World’s End.” And tells her to “take heart”; The stag shows Eva visions of past events in weaving clouds where there is a sinister specter where disaster strikes (implied to be Satan with a dark red cape); The stag tells her that someone is “farther than ever from the door [of the portal]” (implying a lack of belief); The stag defeats the enchantress at the end in a recounting of the history of a realm and banishes her to wander the forest alone; After the time skip, Eva tells her grandmother that the stag can be trusted and that her loved ones are safe with him now; It ends with Eva not knowing if her grandmother will eat the golden pear or to choose to join the others to claim her throne since Eva can’t make that choice for her *End of Big Spoilers*; Another woman believes those who believed in other worlds are in a cult and were mad (saying that they “repeat the vow, drink the poison, ride the train” but no other mentions of poison drinking and it’s neither confirmed or denied to be an actual part of the group); A man says that Eva has grown into an “absolute goddess” in her looks; Many things, places, and & events are described as “magic”, “magical”, and being put under a spell; All about many mentions of portals, transporting into another world, the doors being locked, those who have traveled there, & details of those worlds; Mentions of a horn that calls people to a realm & that they feel compelled to follow it; Mentions of prophecies; Mentions of sorceresses, witches, & necromancers (all looked upon as evil); Mentions of fantasy-like creatures (centaurs, dragons, dryads, dwarves, ogres, giants, magic moles, nymphs, sprites); Mentions of gems with special powers; Mentions of others looking elfin; Mentions of a room of a deceased person being like a “creepy graveyard at night”, it feeling sacrilege to go into the room, & telling the person to rest in peace; A few mentions of others acting like they just saw a ghost or “the living dead”; A few mentions of ghosts & ghostlike figures; A couple mentions of the Tooth Fairy; A mention of a group receiving an awful vision of something to come; A mention of the gods of Mount Olympus; A mention of dryads doing a healing dance for someone & it working; A mention of a witch casting a spell; A mention of sorcery; In the author’s Q&A at the end of the book, the author comments on wondering about someone who has a major trauma after an event (like Eva’s grandmother) would probably have a profound effect on her mental health and “on her trust in a good and just universe” & comments on her own grandmother carrying her wounds including a refusal to believe in a good God (but there was a moment at the end that made it seem like she turned back to faith; Also a mention of trusting that the Author is ultimately good and just).

Negative Content- Minor cussing including: a ‘blah, blah, a ‘gosh’, a ‘who the heck’, two ‘darned’s, two ‘stupid’s; Other phrases are used such as ‘by Jove’ (x1), ‘great Scott!’ (x1), ‘good heavens!’ (x1), ‘thank heaven!’ (x1), ‘by heaven’ (x3), ‘heaven!/heavens’ (x4), ‘my word’ (x4); Eye rolling & Sarcasm; Eva often disobeys & feels no remorse for it (including her trying to hide the blush of shame that always happens when she lies, sneaking into an adult’s room to search for something, going into a room she was told not to go into, hiding an important note, lying about how she got hurt enough to need stitches and having a concussion, feeling rebellious to do something that others would not like, & running away from an adult that’s trying to catch her with good intentions); Eva lies & eavesdrops a few times; Eva keeps secrets from others because of them telling her to not do something (and then she disobeys) & because of pettiness (despite it her knowing that it makes her not a very good friend to someone); Adults tell Eva to keep their secrets & keep things from other adults (such as a housekeeper not telling Eva’s mother about an important thing); Eva gets annoyed with a boy being obedient & a rule follower (she would prefer him not to be that way and it’s evident with her comments on him being “so darned obedient” and complimenting him when he sneaks into an adult’s locked room; She apologizes a couple of times about doing something without him and later gets upset at him again); Eva is sassy towards her mother because of the secrets she keeps (including Eva telling her mother to tell her the truth or she’s pester other people until she finds out what she wants to know, her mother says she can just pester other people then); Eva blows up about her mother keeping secrets from her and her mother then shares some answers to a few of Eva’s questions; Eva feels jealous over another’s relationship with his grandparent; *Spoiler* The final part of the book is set five years later and picks up with Eva visiting her grandmother who is dying from cancer and has pneumonia, but the book ends before her death *End of Spoiler*; Pain, Injuries, Blood/Bleeding, Having to get stitches, & Having a mild concussion (up to semi-detailed); Seeing accidents & deaths (up to semi-detailed); A side character passes away & we see his family’s grief (barely-above-not-detailed); An elderly woman has been very bitter since the death of her daughter (we see this on-page); A wolf attack/fight is recounted in a story & the wolf is killed (up to semi-detailed); Many mentions of deaths, a train crash, car accidents, a drowning, injuries, & grieving family members (up to semi-detailed); Mentions of wars (WWI & WWII) & deaths (barely-above-not-detailed); Mentions of pain, injuries, blood/bleeding, & stitches; Mentions of lies & lying; Mentions of hunting; A few mentions of slavery in another realm; A few mentions of a man’s divorces (he’s very flippant about them and says he has “no partner at present”); A few mentions of pubs; A few mentions of hatred; A few mentions of nightmares; A few mentions of generational trauma (in the author’s Q&A at the very end); A couple mentions of murders (including a wife killing her husband in the recount of another realm’s history); A couple mentions of survivor’s guilt; A couple mentions of fighting; A couple mentions of jealousy; A couple mentions of rumors; A mention of death row inmates; A mention of a guillotine; A mention of an arrest; A mention of poison; A mention of Eva’s parents celebrating news with a bottle of wine; A mention of suicidal ideation & alcohol addiction (in the author’s Q&A at the end);
*Note: Eva wonders if she’s always bound to disappoint everyone no matter what she says or does; Eva gets very mad at people keeping secrets from her and wonders if it’s because her parents didn’t want her blabbing about their secrets (when she confronts her mother with this, she is surprised and said it was not because of that but because of painful memories); Eva feels like she’s ruined everything at one point; Eva’s mother and grandmother have a strained relationship (we see this on page with jabs and sarcasm, Eva’s mother shrinking into herself when with her mother, the grandmother never contacting them in 14+ years, spiteful actions, & it's due to *Spoilers* the grandmother burning important papers to her daughter’s research about an author and her experience in another world; At the end, her grandmother confesses regret over doing that *End of Spoilers*); Eva is embarrassed and also later annoyed by her mother (the first because of her mother’s reactions to her grandmother and the second because of Eva’s mother not liking her grandmother buying her gifts); Eva gets angry at her mother for keeping her away from her grandmother after seeing that they (Eva and her grandmother) get along well (Eva thinks it’s because of her stubbornness); Eva & her mother have a riff between them because of the strained relationship between Eva’s mother and grandmother & her mother keeping secrets; Eva’s grandmother can be rude and ugly towards others (& Eva) if they bring up about another world; *Spoilers* It’s said that Eva’s grandmother’s mind is broken after the tragedies of losing loved ones including a sister; She signs of confusion & wanders around at night thinking she’s locked out of another realm; She also gets Eva confused for her sister and Eva plays along, trying to follow the giant stag and find a portal when causes Eva to disobey and get hurt; It’s later said by someone else that Eva’s grandmother has been forceful during the day with saying that there’s no such thing as other realms because of it being dangerous and would rather Eva “believe a lie than lose” her; *End of Spoilers*; *Big Spoiler* Her grandmother says some harsh words towards the end, but they make up at the very end of the book after a time skip *End of Big Spoiler*; Halfway through, Eva decides that she came to England to heal her grandmother’s mind and that only she could do it & has a vision of the grandmother telling everyone that she couldn’t have been healed without Eva; Eva’s mother comments that she thinks her mother “wants everyone else to feel the same kind of pain she does so that she doesn’t have to be alone in her misery”; Eva gets claustrophobia a few times (barely-above-not-detailed); Mentions of children’s books, authors, & fictional characters (all classics); Mentions of car brands; A few mentions of centuries of cruelty domestic servants faced.

Sexual Content- A bit of Noticing & Nearness (barely-above-not-detailed); An accidental brush of hands that causes awkwardness and blushes & holding hands; Blushes; *Spoiler* Eva’s mother tells her that her grandmother made a comment about Eva’s father not really loving her, but her connections, which greatly angered and hurt her *End of Spoiler*; A handful of mentions of boyfriends/girlfriends, dates, & dating; A mention of a broken heart; A mention of others thinking two teens could be up to someone inappropriate (does not happen).

-Eva Joyce, age 14
1st person P.O.V. of Eva
Set mostly in 1995 & the last few chapters in 2000
384 pages

Pre Teens- One Star
New Teens- Two Stars
Early High School Teens- Three Stars
Older High School Teens- Three Stars
My personal Rating- Two Stars

{ Add a full star for those who enjoy portal fantasy books}

There’s a lot to unpack in this book. As always, I tried my best with listing content and details of the plot, so let’s get started.

I liked Eva at times and discovering more about her British grandmother she’s never met, but the fantasy side of it took me a while to understand. There would be little parts that would sound like it was based off Scripture and could be an allegory, but not completely as not everything matched up to the Bible. Somethings felt allegorical, but not everything had a clear Biblical counterpart. You could definitely argue that there’s an allegory in this book, but I don’t personally feel like it was super obvious. I feel like I was hunting to find the connections like Eva was hunting to find portals until the final chapters where it’s a little clearer in the dual meanings. I do think there could be some possible confusion for younger readers though because of this and the hints to someone no longer believing in another realm that’s implied to be Heaven and that that person has to choose again to believe.

This author definitely wrote the wonder and magic of another world and just the overall whimsy magic feelings well. It reminded me of children’s books I read as a child that had similar themes and I think many will like this book because of that writing style.

I can’t blame Eva for being upset about all the secrets others are keeping and all the secret she has to keep and keep track of who knows what. I grew rather frustrated with that element as well. Some of the adults—like her mother—keep secrets from Eva partially because they don’t want to burden her with past events and partially because they didn’t want to deal with her many questions that would come after.

That said, Eva did make some poor decisions such as not listening to adults’ orders (which are usually for her safety and to not get involved in the other realm/portal hunting), blatantly disobeying their words, sneaking into locked rooms of said adults to hunt for items related to that adventure, and negatively commenting on a young teen being such a rule follower (and then complimenting him when he does break a rule). There are times she’s annoyed at her mother and grandmother and blows up at them There’s no remorse shown and it gives the impression that this is just her personality and that she knows better than the adults. She’s so eager to find out her family’s secrets and about the other world that she thinks she deserves to know about it all.

Her grandmother could be downright ugly at times, especially at a certain scene at the end. That and the grief that she and her sister have made the book very sad at times and I would give a warning for that for sensitive readers.

I will also add that this book felt much more aimed for middle-grade readers than young adult, especially because of Eva’s reactions and attitude about different things. She felt like she was twelve instead of fourteen most of the time. Even though the writing style and quality of the plot felt like it should be for middle-grade readers, I can't say I would recommend this book for that age group due to her actions and disobedience. The pacing was…different and we finally received the majority of the answers I was waiting for at about 75% into the book where things started to kick into gear.

I’m not a portal fantasy fan (it just doesn’t make sense in my brain) so because of that and not liking some of the actions of our main character, this wasn’t really my cup of tea. Those that like this type of fantasy book will probably enjoy it more than I did.

Link to review:

*BFCG may (Read the review to see) recommend this book by this author. It does not mean I recommend all the books by this author.

*I received this Advance Reader Copy for free from the Publisher (Waterbrook) for this honest review. Some minor details listed in this review may have been changed in the final version of this book.

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When I was a kid, I read the Narnia books, and like many girls, wondered what happened to Susan - would she ever return to Narnia after she stopped believing in it? CS Lewis even said the door was open for other writers to pick up this thread and see where it leads and try to bring her back home if they could.
I genuinely think Once a Queen is the perfect answer to that question, although in its own way. The story follows the granddaughter of the former queen of a magical otherland who chose to forget after the tragic death of her sister and their closest friends. There's so much richness in the story, and the mystery surrounding world of Ternival is so well-crafted. Not to mention that the snippets of stories from Ternival that are integrated into the story made me feel like I should have read those as a child too!
The ending left lots of room for a sequel, and the snippet I got at the very end of the ARC made me VERY keen to dip my toes back into this world in the future.

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This book seems very similar to The LIon The Witch and The Wardrobe. I found the start rather slow and did not draw me in enough besides the little quotes between the chapters. But this book definitely promises an adventure.

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This book is an enjoyable read with an interesting storyline and characters, the title drew me to this book initially

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I rated this book 3 - 3.5 stars because I enjoyed it and at times couldn't put it down. This story and the magical world were reminiscent of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden, A Wrinkle in Time, and at times, Alice in Wonderland. I think that's the part I enjoyed the most. The magical creatures and the portal into another world(s) were all captivating and were some of my favorite parts of the story.

That being said, I do feel that there were elements that took away from the storyline - the use of old English, the passages at the ends of chapters that told the story from Mesterra - and seemed to leave out information, or jump around within the backstory and caused confusion more than it helped the story move along. I feel that there were things left out, or glossed over, in the storyline and I still have questions that were not answered with the conclusion of the book.

If there are plans for a continuation of the storyline or a prequel, I would be interested in reading those as I was quite taken with the "other world" aspect of this book. If you enjoyed any of the books I mentioned above, you might enjoy this one.

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Thank you Netgalley and WaterBrook for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

"Once a Queen" by Sarah Arthur is an engaging fantasy reminiscent of Narnia as well as “Bridge to Terabithia.” I think a MG or younger YA audience would be absolutely sucked into this story and the world Arthur creates.

I found the book to have an enchanting nature and tone, which fit perfectly with the story and the world that Arthur was creating. There was a focus on family secrets, mysterious manor houses, and portals to other worlds. That’s why I kept thinking of Narnia when I was reading this book, so those who enjoyed Narnia may experience some nostalgia when reading “Once a Queen.” The story follows fourteen-year-old Eva Joyce on a summer adventure, uncovering family history and the magical elements hidden within the manor.

I think the strongest aspect of this book lies in its exploration of themes such as family relationships, grief, and the transition from childhood to adolescence. The character development was well-done, and I thought that Eva felt realistic, though a bit younger than her established age. The side characters The characters like the housekeeper, gardener, and Frankie, added depth and warmth to the story. The blending of real-world settings with fantasy elements was done well and created a vivid and immersive world, though I wish I got to experience more of this world in the beginning of the novel. Arthur also explored the topic of generational trauma and grief in the story, which added emotional depth, and I think is a topic many readers could relate to based on their own familial experiences.

The book, however, was a bit challenging to engage with, specifically with the pacing. The first half of the book was a bit slow, and, as stated earlier, I wanted to experience more of the fantasy world that Arthur created. Eva's reactions and attitude also seemed more fitting for a younger age group, occasionally making decisions that were a bit frustrating, which would make more sense if she were a bit younger.

Overall, "Once a Queen" offers a blend of enchantment with the fantasy world and the character development shown throughout the book. I would definitely recommend this book to be kept in middle grade libraries or in 9th-10th grade English classrooms.

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I received a copy of this book for a fair and honest review. I know that this is the first book in a series and this is where we get introduced to the world the rest of the series will be taking place in. I found myself going back and reading some passages to make sure I understood what was going on. Eva is visiting her grandmother at the family manor. This is a journey to learn about magic, secret and about family. There are parts of the book I found enjoyable, but kind of a hard book to get through. I felt there needed to be more going to keep me personally engaged in the story. It could just be the foundation for the rest of the series. I will just have to wait and see.

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This one starts out very slow and confusing. I stopped at chapter 14, 24% and did not finish. I had no idea what the story of Ternivia was and why those "chapters" were separate. The story lacked character building. I didn't care about Eva or her Grandmother and there was not enough suspense to keep me reading. I stopped reading because I was bored and uninvested.

Thank you to the publisher for this eArc.

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Eva Joyce is finally getting to meet her grandmother, who lives at a grand manor house in England. At 14, she’s never talked to her or even received any letters, and she knows little about the woman. But she will be spending the summer with her while her college-professor father tries to secure a permanent job at a university in Chicago.

Eva has grown up loving the fantasy stories set in the magical realm of Ternival, and she learns fairly soon after arriving at Carrick Hall that the stories have a connection to the estate. And, most surprisingly, a number of the locals who work at the manor believe the stories are true. Portals to other worlds exist, and her grandmother was once a queen in Ternival.

Now, however, her grandmother doesn’t even want to hear people talk about Ternival, and she keeps mostly to herself in the grand house. After a tragedy in her young adulthood, she has been grieving, her heart shut off from wonder and joy.

With Eva’s arrival, however, the older woman is faced with some painful memories and is clearly struggling with her past. Eva hopes she can learn the truth about what she’s heard and even find a portal to the magic world she loved when she was a child. As a teenager, she would love to enter Ternival, but she knows she’s of an age that it’s just about time to leave fairy tales behind.

But if nothing else, she wants to learn the secrets her family has kept and to bring healing to her grandmother. Just how vital it is to enter Ternival to do so is unclear.

Once a Queen has many wonderful elements that should make it a favorite, but a number of pieces were missing for me. For one, every chapter set in the “real world” alternates with a page or two of story from the fairy tale world written in the book. But each section from the fairy tale is fairly short, and it’s hard to know if the entirety of the Ternival book is presented in those snippets or if they are excerpts giving pertinent highlights. Either way, I didn’t get too caught up in that fairy tale story, which took away some of the power of what it meant in the lives of the “real world” people.

It’s also very clear the fairy tale world takes very heavily from famous, beloved works like Narnia. The author writes at the end that she grew up reading The Secret Garden, A Wrinkle in Time, Narnia, and others, and her love for those make-believe realms is evident. It just seems that this realm takes far too much from existing books, particularly Narnia. It just doesn’t feel original enough.

I also had a number of questions about how certain things worked that seemed like big issues (for me, at least). There are some holes that left me a bit confused.

Overall, however, the story is poignant and a clear homage to classics that are dear to many readers’ hearts for a reason. Its focus on the main character and her grandmother is still the most important part and a sweet one.

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Once a Queen is an enchanting easy to read YA fantasy book. The main character, 14 yr old Eva, has never visited her Grandmother's estate in England. Eva and her mom visit there, and Eva find things that aren't as they may seem on the surface. Eva meets Frankie, the caretaker's grandson. The friendship that strikes up between the two of them was so much fun to watch grow. As time goes on, Eva has to try to decide if she's too old to believe in 'magic' or if all of these secrets she's discovering in her family history is truly magical. I think if you enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia series, you would enjoy this book. For an adult it's a fast easy read. I'd happily let my Middle Grade child read this.

Thank you to NetGalley, Sarah Arthur and WaterBrook Publishing for allowing me this e-version arc to read and review.

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“The Mystery of the Manor” is a well-crafted debut novel with an engaging story and approachable narrative.

Eva Joyce, a 14-year-old American girl, finds herself in an unexpected summer adventure at her English grandmother’s mysterious manor. The book skillfully mixes fantasy and mystery, appealing to readers with its fairy tale-like quality.

One notable aspect of the story is its subtle religious allegory, adding a layer of complex themes.

As Eva uncovers her family's secretive past and navigates strange occurrences at the manor, the narrative introduces hidden portals to other worlds, guarded by the manor’s staff, adding intrigue and wonder.

Eva learns about her grandmother’s past as a queen in one of these mystical realms, now a closed chapter in her life. The book excels in blending the ordinary with fairy tale magic, diving into themes like self-discovery, and the power of family legacies.

'The Mystery of the Manor' is a well crafted novel, ideal for middle school readers who enjoy mysteries with a supernatural twist,

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This was very clearly a religious allegory, which I think is kind of annoying because there is no indication of that in the marketing.
My real problem with this is that it is just SO young. It reads almost like middle grade honestly, and that is not at all like what the description led me to believe. I know it has a 14 year old protagonist, but the whole thing felt more like it should have an 11 year old protagonist.
I think this was interesting and well written, it just wasn't for me. This book definitely has an audience, particularly for younger readers and readers who are looking for a bit more religious takes on fantasy.
It wasn't bad, just really wasn't for me.

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"Once a Queen" by Sarah Arthur is a captivating YA fantasy novel. Eva, a fourteen-year-old girl, embarks on her first journey to meet her estranged grandmother, who has never been discussed by her mother. The manor house and its gardens are full of secrets, and Eva has grown up listening to fairy tales about another world, which she learns may be real.

My initial reaction was that this story reminded me of other classic children's novels such as "The Secret Garden". I enjoyed Eva's character and watching her develop relationships with Frankie and her grandmother. However, the thing that really impacted me was how the novel dealt with generational trauma and grief. I felt sad for the grandmother, who was allowing her grief over her sister's death to take over her life.

It took me a moment to understand the fantasy world in the book. I read through it a second time and discussed it at length with my best friend. The fairytale, which is separate from the main novel, is also a fascinating story in its own right.

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I was instantly in love and so drawn into this story. Imagine any of the main characters from The Chronicles of Narnia are now old and their grandchild is discovering that the fairytales they grew up loving were not only true but about their grandmother. I can see these characters becoming just as beloved. I cannot wait for the next books!!!

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I received this arc from Netgalley and Waterbrook & Multnomah in exchange for a fair and honest review.

How to describe this gem? Take a handful of Narnia, a twist of The Secret Garden, a dash of Madelene L’engle and you have this unputdownable YA fantasy. This has me yearning to explore all wardrobes and tapestries to double check they aren’t a secret portal to another world.

Right now this book is due for publication in January 2024 so marked your calendars because this would be a perfect read on a cozy winter day. Heads up this is the first in a series. And I seriously hope I can get access to book 2 asap.

UPDATE: added review to Barnes and Noble under username KatieSam on 1/30/24

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This book first and foremost is a fantasy and inspired by fairy tale. For some that can be appealing, and it was for me to some extent too.
Personally I skipped over the passages at the end of each chapter. Maybe I'd have got more out of the story if I'd read them too, but I enjoyed it well enough without reading them.
Eva and Frankie were really engaging characters and watching their relationship unfold was very entertaining.
Overall, this story was very fun, and a good time. Not necessarily my cup of tea, and not one I'd likely read again, but it was fun while I was in it.

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Thank you to Waterbrook and Sarah Arthur for the opportunity to arc review Once a Queen.

A modern take on the old fantasy stories of my childhood – it stirred many happy memories of reading the greats like S Lewis during the summer holiday. Nice to see the world re-embracing this style of writing. Sarah Arthur has a very descriptive writing style that paints a very detail oriented picture into the reader's imagination of against where the adventure of the story is taking place and bring the visual embodiment of the characters to life.

The pacing of the book was a little strange for me – the books is telling a lot of different peoples’ stories with inclusion of passages from the book , characters relying their own stories to Eva and the Eva’s own adventure uncovering the mysteries of her family’s history. I felt like most of the first 75% of the book didn’t amount to much, a lot of setting up and telling the reader what’s what before finally getting to the adventure about 80%.

I’m not religious at all, but I get the tradition and the metaphors behind the imagery contained within the story. The Chronicles of Narnia were one of my favourite books as a child, but they didn’t convert me to Christianity. I think you can enjoy this book for its mystical elements, emotions and the tragic relationships between the characters without getting lost in the religious aspects.

Overall, a nice throw-back to a different time of writing and storytelling with a strange and whimsical fantasy world with nice correlations to the Chronicles of Narnia. 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3.

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Once a Queen-a standalone

by Sara Arthur-debut YA

Rating: 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Publication 1/30/24 Read 1/30/24

Format: eBook, 376 pgs.

Thanks to NetGalley and WaterBrook &Multnomah for this ARC💚! I voluntarily give an honest review and all opinions expressed are my own.

✔️ YA
✔️ Sci Fi/Fantasy
✔️ Magic
✔️ Family secrets
✔️Fairytale inspirations: The Chronicles of Narnia and The Secret Garden

Summary- Eva Joyce is a fourteen-year-old American girl who unexpectedly leaves her Connecticut home to spend the summer at her grandmother's (Mrs. Torstane) English manor house-Carrick Hall. Eva has a lot of questions and spends her time investigating her reclusive grandmother's life, and the strange happenings within the manor's gardens. Eva befriends the elderly housekeeper Mrs. Fealston, the gardener Stokes , and the gardener's grandson, Frankie Addison. They help guide her quest to uncover the truth about her family and the worlds that once existed.

The plot is Eva's exploration of family relationships, grief, and the transition from childhood to adolescence. Eva grapples with growing up and leaving behind fairy tales and the magic of her childhood.

Overall, Once a Queen is a compelling young adult fantasy novel that exposes other worlds of mystery and enchantment. Eva discovers family secrets and embraces a coming-of-age journey built around her grandmother's trauma and grief.

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A mystery-fantasy. The writing was unique and I enjoyed the way it was told. It reminded me of the Chronicles of Narnia.

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