STARRED REVIEW
March 12, 2019

The True Queen

By Zen Cho
Review by

While The True Queen is the second in Zen Cho’s Sorcerer Royal series, in many ways it is more of a standalone novel than true sequel. It is true that readers who enjoyed Sorcerer to the Crown will delight in the reappearance of familiar characters and settings, as well as the expansion of Cho’s vision of a magical Regency England. But because The True Queen is told from the perspective of characters new to Prunella, Henrietta and Zacharias’s world, the novel gives incoming readers a smooth introduction to Cho’s complex and exciting creation.

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While The True Queen is the second in Zen Cho’s Sorcerer Royal series, in many ways it is more of a standalone novel than true sequel. It is true that readers who enjoyed Sorcerer to the Crown will delight in the reappearance of familiar characters and settings, as well as the expansion of Cho’s vision of a magical Regency England. But because The True Queen is told from the perspective of characters new to Prunella, Henrietta and Zacharias’s world, the novel gives incoming readers a smooth introduction to Cho’s complex and exciting creation. But be careful—once you’ve experienced Cho’s vision of the past, you will never want to leave.

The True Queen opens in the weeks after Muna and her sister Sakti found themselves on the shores of Janda Baik, a tiny (and fictional) island. Stripped of their memories by an unknown magician, the girls take refuge with the witch Mak Genggang. But as the weeks go on, Sakti and Muna learn that their memories may not be all that the curse took from them. Sakti is beginning to fade from existence, and the sisters’ only hope in lifting the curse is to travel to Britain and enlist the aid of the Sorceress Royal. But when Sakti gets lost in the Unseen Realm between Janda Baik and Britain, Muna must learn how to navigate the world of magicians without Sakti. In the process, she will learn exactly how far she’ll go to save her sister.

Purposefully or not, much of historical fiction and fantasy tends to show a whitewashed view of European history. In both Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen, Zen Cho reminds us that Britain was far from homogenous. And while Cho never strays into direct discussions of imperialism (at its core, The True Queen is a fairly light book), it is a constant presence. Its threat looms in Janda Baik as Mak Geggang struggles to keep the influence of the British from growing on the island. And while few are outright hostile towards Muna, she is treated as an exotic addition to society rather than a person of her own. These additions distinguish the novel from others of its genre, making The True Queen a book worth reading for lovers of historical fantasy and thoughtful historical fiction alike.

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