Finally, the sequel to 2015’s Sorcerer to the Crown is here! I loved the first book. Fairies! Reserved Victorian-era magicians! Scandals! Diverse representation! That ending!
Basically everything I typed above applies to the sequel, The True Queen. This time, we follow two sisters, Sakti and Muna, as they try to figure out how to remove a curse that has been placed on them. This is not a direct sequel, but if you don’t read Sorcerer to the Crown first, you will be spoiled on the ending of that book, so you should really start there.
Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts
Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts
As with the first book, the representation is really great, as is the way it’s thought through. For example, magic-users from different parts of the world have different understandings of the Fairy Realm (where humans get their magic from), and different styles and traditions around magic. We only get a glimpse into that with Sorcerer to the Crown, which mostly follows Prunella as she learns British-style magic with a little exposure to other magic.
In The True Queen, Muna, a Malay woman, is constantly around British magicians, so we readers get to experience the differences as Muna encounters them. So long story short, I wasn’t offended by any representations, the book passes for gender, racial, and LGBT rep, and there are both female main characters and supporting characters. That’s a pretty good start!
Read our review of Zen Cho’s first novel, Sorcerer to the Crown.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts
One reason I love these books is Cho’s ability to capture the understated-ness of the Victorian era. This makes the humor all the more impactful as these well-bred characters encounter ridiculous scenarios. Her writing style is tight and fun to read.
I also love stories about Fairy in general, and Cho captures that magic here. (Oops, accidental pun). Though the spells performed by the girls might appear similar to spells in Harry Potter, for example, there is deeper magic at work here. Fairy magic is about the power of promises, of lived places, of named things. Cho doesn’t forget that. She’s also properly violent when the situation calls for it. Never forget Fairy is dangerous!
Recommended: The Whimsy and Utter Terror of Fairy Land
Above and Beyond General Media = 5/5 pts
The book gets full points here mostly for the reasons listed above. I like how grounded the representation is, and the exploration of how different cultures understand magic. As with the last book, I loved the characterizations of the women, especially the “unlikable” characters. If you regularly read my posts, you’ll know I have a soft spot for stories that explore sisterly bonds, and Sakti and Muna’s relationship, how it changed, and how they understood each other at the end of the book, emotionally grounded the story. There were also two positive LGBT relationships portrayed, without any implication of romance being the most important thing in the women’s lives.
For all these reasons, I recommend you check out The True Queen from your library! I just learned Zen Cho also has a short story collection, so I’ll be trying that out next.
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