Review: Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Her Majesty’s Royal Coven
Author: Juno Dawson
Series: Her Majesty’s Royal Coven #1
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Aoife McMahon
Length: 13 hrs 56 mins (448 pages)
Publisher: Penguin Books; Penguin Random House Audio
Release Date: May 31, 2022
Source: publisher
Recommended for fans of: Good Omens
Content Warnings: transphobia, racism, child abuse, infidelity, death, violence, war, car accident, domestic abuse

SYNOPSIS

A Discovery of Witches meets The Craft in this the first installment of this epic fantasy trilogy about a group of childhood friends who are also witches.

If you look hard enough at old photographs, we’re there in the background: healers in the trenches; Suffragettes; Bletchley Park oracles; land girls and resistance fighters. Why is it we help in times of crisis? We have a gift. We are stronger than Mundanes, plain and simple.

At the dawn of their adolescence, on the eve of the summer solstice, four young girls–Helena, Leonie, Niamh and Elle–took the oath to join Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, established by Queen Elizabeth I as a covert government department. Now, decades later, the witch community is still reeling from a civil war and Helena is now the reigning High Priestess of the organization. Yet Helena is the only one of her friend group still enmeshed in the stale bureaucracy of HMRC. Elle is trying to pretend she’s a normal housewife, and Niamh has become a country vet, using her powers to heal sick animals. In what Helena perceives as the deepest betrayal, Leonie has defected to start her own more inclusive and intersectional coven, Diaspora. And now Helena has a bigger problem. A young warlock of extraordinary capabilities has been captured by authorities and seems to threaten the very existence of HMRC. With conflicting beliefs over the best course of action, the four friends must decide where their loyalties lie: with preserving tradition, or doing what is right.

Juno Dawson explores gender and the corrupting nature of power in a delightful and provocative story of magic and matriarchy, friendship and feminism. Dealing with all the aspects of contemporary womanhood, as well as being phenomenally powerful witches, Niamh, Helena, Leonie and Elle may have grown apart but they will always be bound by the sisterhood of the coven.

MY THOUGHTS

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven follows a group of childhood friends raised together in the HMRC reuniting later in life in response to new threats to the magical community. The central conflict revolves around whether a teen transgender witch is actually a witch deserving HMRC’s protection or a warlock and therefore the prophesied “Sullied Child,” an antichrist figure signaling the end of the world. Yikes.

The writing was not where it needed to be to make this story work. The transphobia and offensive language served a purpose to villainize certain characters, but it felt so extreme and over the top, and there was SO MUCH of it. The characters were all very black and white, Good or Bad with no in between. The character’s personalities were all so similar to each other aside from surface-level differences that I actually had to restart the audiobook after a few chapters because I kept mixing them up. The incessant slang and pop culture references were also jarring, and I don’t think the book found the right tonal balance between campy and serious moments. Overall, this book needed more nuance and depth to effectively achieve its purpose.

The magic system was interesting, and the action was exciting. The story reminded me a bit of Good Omens. A lot of twists and turns I didn’t see coming, especially at the end. The final page cliffhanger intrigues me, but I am undecided if I will continue this trilogy when the next book comes out.

Thank you to the publisher for the complimentary audiobook.

Author: Caroline | Carolibrary

Hello! I’m Caroline! I am a teacher, a book lover, and a nerd. My passions include reading, writing, bookstagram, barre & yoga, baking, binging TV shows, and Star Wars. I love stories in all formats because they can transport you to a different world while helping you understand the world around you. I have always found books to be a particularly magical source of imagination.

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