Cover Image: Once a Queen

Once a Queen

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At 14, Eva Joyce has not yet let go of her belief in lands beyond a wardrobe door, when a trip to meet her grandmother in England brings about the unexpected and she begins to believe her favorite book of fairy tales might be true. Once a Queen by Sarah Arthur is a luminous work of Young Adult fiction and a sublime portal fantasy featuring a story within a story.

Enjoyable for teens or adults, Once a Queen is a not to be missed YA debut. A sneak peek of book 2, Once a Castle, is included.

This review refers to a digital ARC that I voluntarily read via NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher. A positive review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own.

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Once A Queen by Sarah Arthur is a young adult fantasy that begins with a mysterious grandma, a large mansion, and a ton of secrets. It talks about magical creatures and fading portals to other worlds, perfect for fans of Narnia.

The book has a fun start, but it feels like it's just the beginning of a much bigger story. It's like the warm-up before the main event. If you like Narnia-style stories, this one might be up your alley.

The author introduces a mysterious manor, family secrets, and magical elements. While it might lack some details, it promises to explore the fantasy world more in future books.

Once A Queen is a solid start to Sarah Arthur's YA fantasy series. If you enjoy magical mysteries and are looking for a bigger adventure in the future, give it a try.

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This was an enchanting story about a girl finding out wondrous secrets about her family and discovering that you can't write other peoples stories for them. Always engaging, it shows a valuable lesson for life while creating lovable characters and a truly magical world.

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Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multinomah for granting me early access to the digital unfinished copy of Once A Queen. This review is entirely my own thoughts and opinions upon finishing the unfinished copy.


Once A Queen is the story of a girl who spends the summer with her mom at the estate of her estranged grandmother in England. Her summer is spent uncovering secrets of her family's past, their connection to another world from a fairytale she grew up loving, and attempting to help her grandmother heal from a traumatic loss in her past.


Before I continue my review, I feel it is very important I leave this warning to potential readers, and message to the publishers.

If you're going to publish a Christian Fantasy, <i> appropriately label it as such </i>. If the rest of the publication world can take the time to add into their promotional materials warnings of triggering topics, then you can also correctly label your YA Fantasy as a CHRISTIAN YA Fantasy. Due to you not appropriately labeling your book as such, my PTSD and religious trauma was triggered. I will not be purchasing this book. I will not be recommending this book. I will not be requesting or purchasing future titles from your imprint as now I cannot trust your imprint.

So readers beware, if Christian theology is a trigger point for you, skip this book. This is a Christian YA Fantasy and should have been appropriately labeled as such.


ENJOYMENT: 2/10🌟 (I really should have DNF'd this book)



My first thoughts on the story is: WHERE IS THE FANTASY? This book is marked as a portal fantasy a-la-Narnia, but 98% of the book takes place in our world with tales from Kinchurch's fairytale in between each chapter. This is more of "What if the Susan Pevensie was traumatized post-narnia on top of losing her belief in Narnia" fanfiction. This story was less an adventure in another world portal fantasy, and more a young girl reconnecting with her traumatized grandmother and trying to heal her fractured mind through faith and believing in the other world and the white stag.

Which... as someone with diagnosed PTSD... this is a gross take to be shoving down someone's throat without any kind of trigger warnings.
1) Children should not be the bearers of adults trauma, nor be responsible for healing adults trauma. The fact this is portrayed in a positive light is sickening. The fact this is a YA book makes this even worse.
2) Healing from trauma via religious faith being portrayed to young adults is EXACTLY how religious trauma comes about. Trauma to the degree the grandmother has is healed through professional help. Ask me how I know.

Outside of that, the story was slow. Less of a fantasy and more of a mystery as Eva desperately tries to uncover all the secrets the adults are hiding from her. It was really not the story I was expecting and just continued to let me down with every chapter.



Arthur's writing is honestly gorgeous! She's got a great flowing prose and can switch between different styles of dialogue and writing on a dime. It certainly helped to make a slow story more engaging. She's really thought through and fleshed out the fantasy world that we got to spend 5 seconds in. It's a shame we didn't get to experience more of it when the fairytales between each chapter show a massive depth of world building done for this tale.



Eva was a sweetheart and a dreamer after my own heart. She's stubborn and determined and bless her soul, she really tries to do the right thing through most of this story. She takes on the task of trying to fix her grandmother's fracture mind and its sweet seeing her bond with her grandmother.

Eva's mother, I felt, was needlessly angry and cagey with information. I was right with Eva feeling left out in the cold with all the secrets swirling around her family. Her mother's treatment of her honestly made me relate even harder to Eva.

I felt for the Grandmother and her brokenness. I appreciated how her dialogue would alter depending on what state of mind she was in through out the story, helping to show her fractured-ness even more.

The rest of the characters were easy to love and helped to round out Eva's world.



Like I said, this book triggered my PTSD and even writing this review is getting harder as I think back over the story and instead am having trauma flashbacks. So no, I did not enjoy this story. I really should have DNF'd but I so wanted answers and was hoping <i>something</i> would happen with the fairytale world and our heroine.

Publishers, appropriately label your books.

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Absolutely loved the author's writing style. The beginning instantly gave me Frances Hodgson Burnett vibes. You can definitely feel the CS Lewis influences in the story. I'm sure this was at least somewhat intentional, but the story definitely feels reminiscent (in some ways) of Susan Pevensie's story in Chronicles of Narnia.

A very solid YA fantasy with dreamy writing.

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DNF at 24%

I tried I really did, I kept telling myself "one more chapter maybe something will happen then" but it's soooo slow and uneventful, we get more action from the dog in the fairytale parts than from the main story. maybe I'm just not the intended target and 13yo have more patience than I do

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Can we just call a permanent end to Narnia-alikes? I have no problem with the idea of travel between worlds, or magical series written by a relative, but when the plot of that series and the sense of that world is screaming "Narnia light" can someone just stop the author?

The Narnia nonsense aside, this wasn't a bad read. More about the relationship between Eva's family and Frankie's would have been interesting. I wanted to tag along on one of the tours, learning how the public saw Carrick Hall (so many people are comparing this to, in part, <i>The Secret Garden</i> but honestly? doesn't anyone remember Mary exploring Misselthwaite Manor? More of that here, please, and less "white stag at night"). The revelations towards the end about why Eva's parents didn't spend time in England at Carrick Hall or with her grandmother were kind of shoehorned in, as were explanations for some of the other magical elements. Sigh.

eARC provided by publisher via Netgalley.

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I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Once a Queen by Sarah Arthur is a lower YA contemporary fantasy that asks what happens to the children in a portal fantasy when they are done with their adventure and return home.

American Eva Joyce and her mother fly to England to stay with Eva’s grandmother for the summer for the first time. Eva’s family loves the Ternival series, an incomplete fantasy series that has ties to her family and the staff of the estate Eva’s grandmother lives in, Carrick Hall, believe in portals to other worlds. Eva’s fascination with the stories they tell, finally getting the chance to know her grandmother, and a mysterious stag that appears at night leads her to try to find a portal of her very own.

What I liked was the generational trauma twist on portal fantasy, recognizing how grief can twist us and make us afraid of new experiences or to leave our homes while also showing how that trauma can hurt our loved ones. The grandmother feels like she stepped through time, particularly in her speech, while everyone around her feels quite grounded in 1995.

It was really cool how each chapter ended with a section from the Ternival series, reading almost like a fairy tale, and showing bits of the portal fantasy world and its history and how it relates to Eva’s grandmother.

I would recommend this to fans of portal fantasies and readers looking for a contemporary fantasy that is fairly light on the worldbuilding.

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To every person who’s grown up wishing fairy tales and magic were real - here’s another for your list. It seems like all the good fairy tales always take place in England or Ireland - there's just something about those places that call to stories like this one. Eva spends her summer unexpectedly with her mother on an estate in England that she has never visited with a grandmother she has never had the chance to meet. This book is Eva's discovery of her family's history with the estate, her favorite fantasy book, and Ternival itself. Keeping the cast of characters & who they were in the epigraphs was slightly confusing during the beginning to middle of the book. It did get better towards the end once you had most of the information. I like the premise of this book that the characters age as the series progresses and that they might have to accept that their role is to nurture the next generation - not have a grand adventure in Ternival themselves.

The map in the front felt a little bit deceiving - I thought that more time would be spent in Ternival itself but that was not the case. That isn't to say I will turn down a book map though since I do love them and it was nice to have a guide when locations in Ternival did pop up in the book. The epigraphs (and quotes) before each chapter were a little confusing at times but it did remind me of how the Silmarillion contained "building of Middle-Earth" information.

I did not realize that this book is to be succeeded by at least one more book until I got to the end - Once a Castle. I couldn't find any information on it either so I'm not sure how long the wait will be until it is published. I would recommend this book to readers who love portal fantasy books - The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Havenfall duology, Wayward Children series. Rounded from 4.5 stars.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review!

At first, this book was difficult to get into due to its slow pacing, but the excerpts interjected between chapters improved the mystery and made for a more fairytale-like read. The lore was a little confusing at times but I understood it by the end. Overall, this was an intriguing story that asks; what happens to the children who return home from the magical world? I'd definitely be interested in reading the sequel.

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I think this book as a target audience, but it wasn't me. At least not current me, maybe I would have liked it as a kid when I didn't understand all the Christian allegory. I'm just someone who instantly hates Christian allegory in books (except His Dark Materials), so this book is not for me.

However, I certainly don't think this was a bad book. If you're the target audience you'd probably love it. The pacing was a little odd sometimes, but the world and characters were quite well-crafted. I personally found some of them a little annoying due to the ~christianity~, but I liked Lord Edward and the Rastegars a lot.
There's a lot of references/nods to older books (many of which I have read), such as The Secret Garden, The Little White Horse, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Honestly, it just felt like a conglomeration of those and I have mixed thoughts. Firstly, it felt like the writing style of those, which I appreciated, because I like old fashioned writing styles. But then it almost felt like fan fiction of all of those (except at least one of them is in the public domain so can it technically be fanfiction?), but especially Narnia. It felt like an exploration of Susan's life after The Last Battle (which has been done before I know), and I thought that the themes were interesting (grief), but it felt a little on the nose, especially when the stag showed up and it was just Aslan-but-a-stag. It tapped into my least favourite themes and messages of Narnia, which is unfortunate, but for the people who like those themes, I'm sure they will like this book!
Unfortunately, this book was not for me, but I know it has an audience!

Thank you to NetGalley for the arc

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Loved this enchanting young adult book. Gave me the vibes of the movie The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Was happy the book was written with shorter chapters which a preference of mine. But I feel it all helps to suck me into a book. Makes it so that I really didn’t want to put it down at times. Loved the story taking place at what seemed like the magical Carrick Hall outside London England. Where we find Eva has traveled with her mother to visit her estranged Grandmother. Her father staying back home to work on research. Once there Eva learns there are a lot of secrets going on. Ones her mother kept from her. Ones her Grandmother kept from them. Ones Eva learns she has to keep from them. As part of what’s going on Eva learns of another magical world. But is it real and she can possibly travel there. Or just the stuff of fairy tales like in her favorite books. Along with the family secrets we learn the staff of Carrick Hall has theirs as well. Eva struggles with who to believe what’s real and was fairy tale. But it’s is well written and easy to follow. Really left you wanting more as you went along. Great for younger readers who want to start getting into fantasy.

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Loved the premise.
Loved the underlying spiritual truths.
Will definitely read the sequel.

You can feel the author’s love for God and the influence of quality literature in her writing as you read.
Thank you to NetGalley and publisher for the chance to read this book.

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Eva is spending the summer in her English grandmother's manor and facing a lot of questions. There are secrets everywhere, and the tensions are high in the family. Eva learns that the staff are convinced that certain fairy tales known to just them and the family are true and that there are portals between worlds. They say Eva's grandmother had once been a queen in this world, but losing her sisters to a horrible tragedy has made her deny it all. Eva is determined to find out what really happened by uncovering family secrets and finding out if the stories are true once and for all.

This book is dealing with a real historical event, generational trauma, family relationships, magical realism, and other worlds. It's a lot to cover, and as a result, it feels a little bit like it doesn't cover some of it enough.

Once a Queen has obvious parallels to The Chronicles of Narnia, and the author is a major fan of C.S. Lewis. The writing style in a lot of ways reflects this. Unfortunately, this book doesn't have the adventure, excitement, or characters that Narnia does. The fairy tales in the story are highlighted through excerpts and the beginning of chapters and in mentions here and there from the characters. If you want to read a portal fantasy or about a new magical world, you should know that isn't what this book is.

The primary focus is not on the magical elements but about Eva's grandmother processing grief in tragedy. Considering that the main character is an observer in most of this, it's harder to feel a connection to the book. The sluggish plot and Eva's slowness to take action or put things together didn't help.

The world building is strangely lacking considering how much time the book spends discussing it, and we spend hardly any time in a different world. The stories from the world are mostly generic, and the characters are run of the mill. Even though everyone in the family and the staff are supposed to love these stories, including Eva who didn't know they were real and her father who is making them the topic of his academic studies, there isn't a spark to them.

The book was a slow read, and I wouldn't be particularly interested in reading more books in the series. It feels more like a prequel than an introduction to a series. To compare it to Narnia, this is more like "The Magician's Nephew" -- lots of setup but kind of boring if you don't care about the world it's developing. It's no "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe".

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Once a Queen tells the story of fourteen-year-old American Eva Joyce who unexpectedly finds herself spending the summer at the mysterious manor house of the English grandmother she’s never met, she soon discovers that her family, the manor staff, and even the house itself are hiding secrets.

When I first picked up this book, something about it hinted about it being linked to the Arthurian myths (possibly the fact that it was being set in England and they are the most popular English fairytale/myths) however, immediately after starting this novel, I could tell that the author had been inspired and was using the fabulous story of C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia--which led me to believe that this book would feature subtle Christian themes, magical world-building, fierce female protagonists, badass villains and lots of unexpected twists and turns in the characters' journey.

Whilst the world-building isn't as in depth or mesmerizing as I would have hoped and the overall pace of the book means that a lot of the tension and much needed action, I will say that Sarah Arthur has managed to create a book that can easily be called an inspiration but definitely not a rip off, much like other books inspired by these beloved children's classics.

Once a Queen is the first book in a planned series and whilst it does have its quirks and faults, I would definitely recommend this to any young reader who is looking for a read very similar to The Chronicles of Narnia but with a main character more like Susan Pevensie and a very sorrowful tale that will leave you with more questions than answers--but isn't that the best way to end a book?

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I enjoyed this book for the most part, however I felt like it lacked the world building that would have made it phenomenal. The story really emphasizes the exploration of the past, however the present is not as big of a focus. I think that with some little shifts here and there, Once a Queen would have been a really fantastic read, however I have to give it 3/5 stars for what it is lacking.

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When fourteen-year-old Eva Joyce visits her grandmother in England with her mom who’d left home after getting married and never returned before now, she doesn’t expect to find out that her grandmother might have been the subject of one of Eva’s favorite fairy tales growing up. The manor might even contain a portal to another world, but no one is willing to talk about it much, her grandmother least of all. Tragedy in her grandmother’s past overshadows the wonder and magic, and Eva begins to believe it’s her job to help her grandmother heal.

Packaged as a portal fantasy, this book is more about Eva’s grandmother’s past trauma, after losing someone close to her when she was a young adult. It’s difficult to separate what is part of the fantastical element of the other world(s) and what is just a reflection of the grandmother’s brokenness. There are questions about all of that that I never really understood and questions about whether Eva’s mom believed any of the tales or not, considering that she doesn’t want to talk about it now, doesn’t seem to believe it now, yet Eva grew up with the stories.

It’s clear that the author is heavily influenced by The Chronicles of Narnia books, though she makes no secret that she’s a major fan. I’ve only just recently read all of that series for the first time, and I saw some pretty obvious parallels. This book takes place almost exclusively in our world, though, with references to the other world(s), which wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Some history from the other world is told between chapters, but I wasn’t completely sure how much of it was important. In the end, this feels a lot more like a book for older teens or adults than teens around 14, with more of an emphasis on grief and trauma than fantasy adventure. The writing is poetic and elegant (and dialog and history related to the other world(s) is basically KJV-type writing, to put it simply), which is not really my preferred style and might be lost on the teens it’s meant for. Considering that the book is in 1st-person from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl, I question the style choice; perhaps if the narrator were to mention that she wrote down her memories decades after it happened, it would make more sense when she describes old manor houses using terminology I’d be surprised an American teen would know. The language also added to the slow feeling of the book as a whole. In the end, not much really happens, and while it sets up a series, it didn’t leave me wanting more. However, the other reviews for this book are generally positive, so please check them out if you’re interested. I wonder if people who have long been fans of Narnia would enjoy this more than I did or if they’d actually enjoy it less.

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I got an e-arc through Netgalley, this in no way affected my review.

I went into this book thinking it would take me on a magical journey to a fantasy land and while I got glimpses of that, it wasn’t what this book was.

We follow Eva as she visits her grandmother that she has never met before. She lives in a sprawling estate, but everyone seems to be hiding a secret.

The writing style was very engaging and that’s why I rated this book 4 stars, because the story was more of a 3 stars in my opinion. I kept on waiting for plot twists and reveals to happen, but they barely ever came. The ending was what made this book feel more like a 0.5 in the series than the first book.

I am in fact curious to see what the sequel will bring as it looks like that book will be what I expected from this one.

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This book, unfortunately, was not for me. It's a very young YA and I can see that the author got the inspiration from Narnia, but for me it fell flat and bored me for the most part. I also don't like when authors use Christian allegories in fantasy books blatantly, therefore Once a Queen is definitely not my thing.

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"Once a Queen" is a spellbinding young adult fantasy that instantly drew me in with its dual timelines and enchanting storytelling. Reminiscent of "The Chronicles of Narnia," it seamlessly weaves unique narrative threads and beloved fantasy elements. The engaging writing style made it a page-turner, and the richly described setting added to the enchantment. Eva's journey of self-discovery was heartwarming, and the subtle incorporation of Christian themes added depth to the story. Although a few minor issues held it back from perfection, I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment. A must-read for fans of clean young adult fantasy!

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