Cover Image: Once a Queen

Once a Queen

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

A fantasy adventure that draws one in. Eva & her mother spend the summer in England at her Grandmother's manor. While there, she discovers there are stories & things that she was never told by her mom. These secrets seem to be connected to an obscure set of fairytales her parents read to her. While searching things out, Eva makes friends with Frankie, who is related to the mayor's gardener. He wants to help Eva on her quest. Things start happening that has Eva believing that the fairytales might be more than just stories but she has to untangle the truth, the fairytales, & the secrets that both her mother & grandmother are keeping. Definite nods to both Narnia & The Secret Garden.
Thank-you NetGalley & the publisher for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

Was this review helpful?

After finishing Sarah Arthur’s "Once a Queen" and then discovering that she co-founded a festival devoted to C. S. Lewis, my first thought was, “Yep, that tracks.” And no, that’s not a slight. But Arthur’s novel — in which a girl named Eva discovers evidence that her grandmother was a queen in another world, the very same world chronicled in Eva’s favorite book — is clearly inspired by Lewis’s beloved Narnian stories. But it’s inspired in the best ways, and no mere rip-off. Arthur’s prose is often quite beautiful and even moving at times, and she weaves a story filled with delight and imagination as well as sorrow, tragedy, and heartache. (Because, as we all know, the best fairy tales often have darker, sadder undercurrents.) "Once a Queen" is a bit cluttered — I confess, it was occasionally difficult to keep track of all of the characters’ familial connections — and Eva’s naïveté and stubbornness is as frustrating as it is endearing (as is often the case with fourteen-year-olds). But the novel is also deeply earnest in its insistence, à la Lewis, of the importance and power of myths and fairy tales, and their ability to convey deeper truths. Perhaps the highest compliment I can give "Once a Queen" is that upon finishing it, I immediately began thinking of all of the youngsters who should read it when it’s released later this month, starting with my own kids.

Was this review helpful?

1/5 Stars (DNF @ 17%)

TL;DR - A very young YA that aspires to be ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ but falls incredibly flat. Not an homage, just derivative, and boring to boot. Hard pass.

Big thanks to WaterBrook & Multnomah and NetGalley for providing the ARC for this book in exchange for an honest review!

‘Once a Queen’ by Sarah Arthur is a YA fantasy about 14 year old Eva Joyce, an American who, with her ex-pat mother, goes to spend the summer with her estranged grandmother in rural England. Apparently there’s a magical land a la Narnia that she’s mysteriously connected to through her ancestral home, but I didn’t get that far.

Wow, this was…wow. And not in a good way.

This book is very clearly inspired by ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C.S. Lewis, and by very clearly, I mean it’s essentially fanfiction and painfully transparent. As I said in the TL;DR, there’s a difference between paying homage to a favorite series and just straight up moving everything in said series two inches to the left and calling it your own, and this book is the latter. I’m not a diehard Narnia stan, but I’ve seen the movies and read the books way, way back, and I kind of take offense to this author not only ripping off that series, but also doing it (in my humble opinion) poorly.

This book has what I like to call the La Croix of fantasy world-building - very run-of-the-mill, bland, vaguely European names with just the teensiest, barely-there hint of fantastical flavor, the most basic, uninspired creation myth/history, and the same tired iterations of fantasy creatures you’ve seen in a hundred different worlds. It’s fantasy in the way that a single grain of rice is a meal. It’s been done, and it’s been done better.

The writing is *very* young, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not at all what I was expecting, nor what the book was sold to me as. Sure, it has a 14 year-old protagonist, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed this even at 14, and I certainly didn’t at 30-something. If you have a young reader just wanting to get into fantasy, this is probably a good place to start, as the writing is very simple, to the point that I, a grown woman, was bored at best and cringing at worst.

(On that note, the cover is not giving middle-grade vibes at all, so that adds to my confusion. But that’s subjective, YMMV.)

I’m also not a fan of the very blatant Christian allegories front-loaded into the book (very loosely using the term “allegories”, mind - it’s basically the Christian god wearing a fake mustache seen creating this world in a very Genesis/Eden scenario). Scripture is actually quoted in one place that I encountered, and that’s just not something I care to read. If that’s your jam, go forth with my blessing because you’ll probably like how heavily Christianity plays into this book even at 17% in, but I will not be joining you.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I was bored from pretty much the jump. Nothing about this book stood out to me. If I wanted to read the whole “child visits English manor house and discovers secret magic world”, I’d just go read C.S. Lewis. Will not be purchasing a physical copy.

Was this review helpful?

Ava, who grew up of modest means in America with parents in research and academia is surprised to find herself spending the summer with her estranged grandmother at her own family’s historic estate in the English countryside.

The estate is eccentric and rich in history and rumors. Strange things occur at night in the gardens and it soon becomes clear to Ava that her childhood fairytales may actually be true. Her grandmother may be a queen from another world. Magic may be real. And traveling to other realms may actually be possible.

The staff knows more than they’re saying. And with an elusive mother, a reclusive and mysterious grandmother, Ava is determined to uncover the truth.

This story is enchanting tale of parallel worlds, portals, and magic, with Chronicles of Narnia vibes. The writing is descriptive and visual with alternating scenes between the present storyline and original fairytale. I was left with questions and wanting more and thrilled to learn this is part of a series.
4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher WaterBrook, and author Sarah Arthur for an ARC of this book.

Was this review helpful?

In all the old stories, in those fairy tales I still half believed, this was how it happened. Ordinary kids were visiting relatives, maybe. Or stuck at boarding school. Alone. Uncertain. Yearning for adventure...That summer, at age fourteen, I was too old to believe anymore, of course. But the ache, the yearning, was still there. It never leaves us, really. The question is whether it will become our truest hope or deepest wound. Or both."

Eva Joyce is an American teenager visiting England, and her grandmother, for the first time. The old hall her grandmother inhabits where she gets to spend the summer reminds Eva of her favorite book of fairy tales set in a mythical world ruled by queens and kings who were once ordinary people like her, from the ordinary, human world.

At first, Eva and her grandmother seem to get along well, with their love of fashion, color and beautiful things. But then Eva makes friends with an old gardener on the estate and his grandson, and begins poking and prodding in things her grandmother feels she isn't meant to meddle in. For there are many secrets haunting Carrick Hall, and some of them tie her grandmother, her family, her new friends, and the old hall itself into the magical fairy tale world that Eva thought only existed in stories.

This book has a very obvious influence from authors like Frances Hodgson Burnett and J.R.R. Tolkien, but mainly it's hard not to see the resemblance to C.S. Lewis. The whole book comes across as a bit of a cross between a loveletter and a fanfiction to the author, right down to a bit of Christian allegory.

I did enjoy the book. Eva and Frankie are great protagonists, and watching them solve their problems and overcome their faults was an engaging read. I'm sorry that we'll see less of them in the next book, but I am also curious to see the adventures of the new generation.

The glimpses of the fairy tale writings of Professor Kinchurch were enthralling, especially to a fairy tale addict like me, although the style switch from the rather light-hearted, comical opening, to the formal, serious middle and ending reads like having William Goldman start writing "The Tales of Ternival" and then having J.R.R. Tolkien write it's middle and ending. It's a bit jarring. I'm hoping that the author might nail down the good Professor's style a bit more firmly by the second book.

Speaking of second books, I am extremely glad this book will not be a standalone, because there seems to have been a lot of work put into the setup of a fantasy world we didn't get to spend much actual time in, as well as some loose threads I'm really hoping will be tied up.

As a final parting note, my friend and I were reviewing this book at the same time, and she was thoroughly confused by it. After discussing it in a long phone call, we came to the conclusion that there needs to be the following warning/disclaimer: Go through the book and read ALL the fairy tale bits from "Tales of Ternival" FIRST and THEN go back and read the main story. It is much easier to understand and makes much more sense that way.

For her first novel, this is a solid effort and I will definitely read any novels following in this series. Four stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, WaterBrook and Multnomah, and Ms. Sarah Arthur for the advanced reader's copy. This is a voluntary review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Was this review helpful?

Once a Queen by Sarah Arthur is a lovely YA fantasy.
Eva is a fourteen year old girl on her first trip to meet a grandmother she's never met. Her mother won't tell her why they are estranged and the manor house with it's gardens hold many secrets.all her live she's been told fairy tale stories of another world and she learns that they might just be true
My first reaction was that this story reminded me of other classic children's novels like The Secret Garden. I liked the character and seeing Eva develop her relationships with Frankie and her Grandmother.
The thing that really got me was dealing with the generational trauma and the grief. I felt sad for the Grandmother who was clearly letting her friend over her sister taken over her world.
The fantasy world took me an extra minute to understand. I read through it a second time and discussed it all length with my best friend. Read apart from the main novel is it's own fascinating story.
I received this arc from net galley is exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Nice story! I love the 'fairytaleness' of it! A lot goes into the forming of another world in a story. I love the characters too, overall. My favorites were Jack and Eva. The only drawback for me is the sadness of the story as a whole. I'm hoping for less sadness in the 2nd tale!!
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance e-copy of this book. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Was this review helpful?

I have been provided with a review copy of The Empire’s Ghost from NetGalley for an impartial review. I was just drawn into this wonderful story and I just couldn’t get enough of it. It was just so easy to get lost in this great story. I just didn’t want it to end. I just lost myself in and I just couldn’t get enough of these interesting characters. I can’t wait to see what’s next from this author.

Was this review helpful?

Once a Queen is an enchanting young adult fantasy novel that pulls readers in right from the opening lines. Told in two different POV's, one from our young protagonist in the 1990s's, and one in the chapters of a fantasy novel that interweaves with the actual story, it was definitely something unique, and combined many of my favorite fantasy elements into one story.

If you grew up loving The Chronicles of Narnia, this might just be the book you've been waiting for. While it definitely brings its own unique story to the table, it felt in many ways like an ode to this other beloved children's classic, and I enjoyed that.

The writing style is engaging and captivating, and I had a hard time wanting to put this one down once I picked it up. The setting is absolute perfection for a novel like this, and I think it will leave every reader wishing their own relatives own an imposing English estate with topiaries and art work galore.

Likewise, I ended up enjoying our main protagonist Eva, and the big heart she has for the world around her. On top of this being an interesting fantasy read, it's also somewhat of a coming of age story, as Eva grapples to come to terms with the family history that's been hidden from her until now.

While I wouldn't categorize this entirely as a Christian allegorical novel, it definitely has some profound Christian themes running throughout the story, and that made a great story even better in my opinion. Some of these themes might not be obvious at first glance, but reading the afterword from the author put a lot of things into a different perspective for me, and I highly recommend reading those pages if you choose to pick this one up.

All in all, I adored this beautiful fantasy and I look forward to continuing on with the series. However, a couple of small components kept it from being a five star read for me, and I want to quickly touch base on each of them.

First, while I loved how this entire story seemed to be inspired by Narnia, sometimes it felt like it went a bit too far that way, and that kind of took something away from this story itself.

Second, The majority of the story focuses around this magical other realm that Eva's grown up believing is a fairy tale. With how much it was hyped up, I expected it to play more of a role in the actual story, and was left disappointed when it failed to do so.

And lastly, the ending is incredibly rushed, and leaves quite a few questions unanswered. I hope that the next book will answer these, cause otherwise it feels a bit incomplete.

Final Rating: 4/5.

I'd definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys clean young adult fantasy novels. It was a truly breathtakingly beautiful story, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read and review it!

Thanks so much to Waterbrook for allowing me to read and review this title!

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary advance reader copy of this novel from the publisher (Waterbrook) via NetGalley. I was not required to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and this is my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Anyone who has ever wondered what happens to the children in stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, or the E Nesbit stories will like this. It's not as dark as The Magicians, where things really went bad for those children, but it's an enchanting start to a new series. I felt there could have been more impetus to push the story along with more exposition at times (lots of repetition of scenes in magical gardens) but overall it was interesting enough to make me want to read the next book.

Was this review helpful?

You don’t have to go far to find Narnian parallels here—you practically trip over them at every turn. But Arthur hasn’t written a novel to help solve the “Susan problem”—the perpetually vexing question of what happened to Susan Pevensie, left alone outside Narnia, after the series ended. That is, not exactly. What she’s written comes across as more of a “what if.” What if someone like Susan, barred from the other world where she once reigned, lived a long life in our world and had a granddaughter who came poking around, looking into a past that the grandmother would rather forget?

In Arthur’s telling, what happens makes for a lovely, compelling story, both of a young girl finding a heritage much richer than she ever knew, and an older woman too ravaged by pain and fear to reclaim that heritage for herself. Every discovery Eva makes seems to raise more barriers between herself and those she cares about—her grandmother, her mother, and her new friend Frankie, whose relatives work on the estate. But she’s driven to keep searching for more, believing that finding her grandmother’s lost world is the way to break through those walls.

Arthur gives us lovingly drawn, complex characters who are easy to care for despite all their flaws, frustrations, and misunderstandings. And there are bittersweet coming-of-age moments that help keep the story grounded. If Once a Queen isn’t actually the Narnia continuation I expected, its very unpredictability turns out to be part of its charm. (This review excerpted from my Substack.)

Was this review helpful?

Stunning fantasy that had a really good theme of trauma and reconvening and learning to cope with it, all told from a YA perspective, while adding in a nice fantasy element. Thanks for the arc.

Was this review helpful?

Reading Once a Queen felt like reading The Lion the Witch and the wardrobe for the first time. I had a lot for nostalgia to my childhood while reading.

I love the multiple layers of this story and how you are learning multiple peoples "stories" at the same time.

There where a couple moments in the book that felt slow, but for the most part I thought the book had a good flow.

Was this review helpful?

I don’t typically read books on the younger side of YA (or at least, ones that feature characters who are on the younger side, such as 14-year-old Eva in this one). I’ve found that more and more I’ve struggled to connect to YA fiction, especially when it reads on the younger side. There are still ones out there that fully grab my attention, and I can think of a number that rose to truly high levels. But, either it’s me or its the subgenre, but I feel like there have been more and more tropes, and less and less original content. That being the case, I was almost more intrigued to try this book, in that it was well outside of my usual YA fare, brushing shoulders more with middle grade fiction than anything else. And while it didn’t fully work for me, I do think it was a pleasant, satisfying read, especially for those who are looking for a good middle grade fantasy novel.

Let’s start with what I liked! In a lot of ways, this book will read as cozily familiar for classic fantasy fans: you have a mysterious manor house full of nooks and crannies and even more mysterious relatives who hint at secret pasts. It’s clear that the author was influenced by books like C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia” series and similar classic portal fantasies. But while it is referential to other fantasy stories, it also felt unique enough to hold its own. I enjoyed exploring alongside Eva as she discovered more and more about her family history.

That said, for the first 75% of the book, the pacing was fairly sluggish. It’s a long wait to actually see the main character dive into any real action or really put together all that she’s learning. It takes even longer for any of the actual portal fantasy elements to come into play. In this way, it was a bit of a frustrating read for me. However, I can see readers who are less familiar (or less interested in) fantasy feeling differently, that the magical elements were merely sprinkled on top of an interesting family-drama-centric middle grade story.

I also enjoyed the exploration of Eva’s relationship with her grandmother, a relation that has largely been an unknown entity in her life up to this point. As her grandmother’s history was revealed, I was intrigued to learn how her grandmother had ended up where she was and why she had made the choices she did. The idea of a granddaughter helping her grandmother rediscover her belief in fairytales is just as cozy at it sounds.

All of that said, I still struggled to get through this book. For me, I was looking for a bit more action and a bit more time spent in other magical worlds. However, I do think it will connect better for readers looking for a cozy fantasy novel with a strong focus on familial relationships and histories.

Rating 7: More successful as a family history story than a portal fantasy, but I do think middle grade cozy fantasy readers will enjoy this one more than I did!

(Link will go live on The Library Ladies on Jan 20)

Was this review helpful?

This book has two POV’s, alternating between 14 year old Eva who ends up spending the summer at her grandmothers English manor home and a fantasy world with links to her grandmothers estate.

It reminded me a bit of the chronicles or Narnia and the Hazelwood. I didn’t really find it as engaging as these books, though. The chapters dealing with the fantasy world felt especially dry and stilted.

I found the book really draggy, and DNF’d it at the 30% mark. I would be interested in trying other books by this author, but this one just didn’t capture my interest.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook and Netgalley for providing me with an eARC of this book to read and review.

Was this review helpful?

What in the Coney Island fun house mirror strangely unironic version of Narnia is this? Honestly. Alright concept with an unpleasantly awkward result.

Was this review helpful?

There were a lot of things I really liked about "Once Upon a Queen". First of all, the writing was really well done. Arthur uses that particular voice/style which you find in authors like E. Nesbit, C. S. Lewis, Jeanne Birdsall- very upfront, classic, and comforting. I also really liked Eva's characterization. She's the kind of narrator who is gracious and knows how to find joy and beauty, but is usually very frank about her own shortcomings (which maybe adds to why the story feels so refreshing?).

I also enjoyed the strong Christian themes in this novel. They were not the most complete- you can't have redemption without a Redeemer- but they were still encouraging.

If you're considering reading this book, definitely read the Afterword first. It gives some insights into the inspiration behind the book that, had I read them earlier, would have changed how I viewed the story, and Grandmother's character especially. Based on the title of the book and the elements borrowed from Narnia, I started reading thinking this was a continuation of Susan Pevensie's story. It's not. It's very similar in some aspects, but Grandmother has a different journey than Susan, and I wish I'd known that earlier.

"Once Upon A Queen" did, as other reviewers have said, feel very derivitave of Narnia, to the point of excess. The similarities were enough that I found myself more surprised when a digression from Lewis's lore occurred. I wish there had been as much originality in the Ternival parts of the story as there was in the modern-day England portion.

Overall, though, Arthur's novel is a solid, enjoyable read, with a strong message of Truth that shines throughout. I'll be keeping an eye out for the next book in the series. Thanks to Netgalley for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Whimsical, melancholic and nostalgic, this book has a great premise: a girl discovering her favorite fairy tales are actually true stories of people falling through to another world. Even better, her grandmother owns the mysterious mansion where the tales begin.

However, it fell flat for me, as the book began to lag half-way through. I feel like the book didn't deliver on its promise to the reader: an adventure in other worlds. For instance, in the Chronicles of Narnia, the bulk of the book takes place in Narnia. Here, the bulk of the book takes place in our world, where the magic of the other world shines through faintly.

When Eva arrives at her estranged grandmother's manor house, she discovers that everyone's keeping secrets from her. She quickly discovers that Frankie and his family, who work on the property, believe the fairy tales about Ternival are true. She also discovers that she's the spitting image of her grandmother's lost sister. Eva soon spots her reclusive grandmother wandering the grounds at night, talking about being queen of another world. She's followed by a mysterious white stag, who leads Eva to a portal, but promptly shuts it in her face. Most of the book's mysteries are being withheld from Eva by adults, and astute readers may guess some of the twists before she does.

Eva's grandmother has experienced a lot of loss, and Eva takes it on herself to try to help her grandmother heal. This bond between grandmother and granddaughter as both reckon with generational trauma and legacy is the best part of the book.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

The writing was there for this one, and honestly it should have worked for me but it just didn't. Overall, it was a fun cozy read. I'm sure many people will really enjoy it! I would just say that maybe this one just wasn't for me.

Was this review helpful?

A mysterious manor house hides the keys to shocking family secrets, and rapidly fading portals to other worlds, in this richly woven tale. Eva Joyce finds herself unexpectedly spending the summer at her families mysterious manor house, of the English grandmother she has never met, and she soon discovers that everyone, even the house, is hiding secrets. Odd things happen in the gardens and hallways at night so Eva embarks on a journey to search for answers.

She soon learns that vermin believes that portals to other wolds exists within the very walls of the manor, though hidden and steadily disappearing, and that her grandmother was once a queen of those worlds. But with her grandmother’s heart closed to the beauty and pain of the oath, its now up to her to discover what is truly happening within the manors walls.

Could it be possible that her favourite childhood fairytales are true? As she begins to unravel the dangerous secrets of the manor and her family, Eva begins to wonder if she too is more than she understood herself to be. An enchanting and myserteous novel that will have you wandering the walks of the mysterious manor, opening doors and wondering if you’ll step into another world.

But all you have to do is open this book to do so — an enchanting story filled with family secrets, magical doorways and familiar relationships that are bittersweet and filled with heartache. If you’re going to read nay book about magical portals to another world and a mysterious manor that hold enough secrets to fill a library than this is the book for you. All you have to do is read the front page to find yourself transported to a world where anything is possible.

𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘰 𝘞𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘬 & 𝘔𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘯𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘩 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘺 𝘷𝘪𝘢 𝘕𝘦𝘵𝘎𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘖𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘢 𝘘𝘶𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘣𝘺 𝘚𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘩 𝘈𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘶𝘳

Was this review helpful?