Review: The True Queen by Zen Cho
Series: Sorcerer Royal #2
Also by this author: Sorcerer to the Crown
Published by Ace Books on March 12, 2019
Also in this series: Sorcerer to the Crown
In the follow-up to the "delightful" regency fantasy novel (NPR.org) Sorcerer to the Crown, a young woman with no memories of her past finds herself embroiled in dangerous politics in England and the land of the fae.
When sisters Muna and Sakti wake up on the peaceful beach of the island of Janda Baik, they can’t remember anything, except that they are bound as only sisters can be. They have been cursed by an unknown enchanter, and slowly Sakti starts to fade away. The only hope of saving her is to go to distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal has established an academy to train women in magic.
If Muna is to save her sister, she must learn to navigate high society, and trick the English magicians into believing she is a magical prodigy. As she's drawn into their intrigues, she must uncover the secrets of her past, and journey into a world with more magic than she had ever dreamed.
I have to be honest, this is a hard review to write. I loved the first book, Sorcerer to the Crown, and as such, I think my expectations for this one were pretty high.
I have seen it mentioned that this book can be read as a standalone, and I want to give my opinion on that a bit. It is set in the same world as The True Queen, but focuses on a new set of characters. The story is such that it can feel self contained and really does not depend on knowledge from the first book, so in that sense it works. You absolutely could read this without reading Sorcerer to the Crown. But while I completely agree that this can be read independent of Sorcerer to the Crown, I also feel like you may get spoilers for the fate of the main characters in Sorcerer to the Crown if you were to read this one first. So I would caution you to read the other book first if you think that finding out where the main characters from that book wind up would ruin your reading experience. They are not primary characters in The True Queen, but they are involved and appear and you would definitely get some idea of how Sorcerer to the Crown ends if you read this one first. So yes, I will agree this can be read without reading the first and I don’t think it would lessen your enjoyment of this book. But I do think that reading this book and then reading Sorcerer to the Crown could potentially negatively impact your reading experience for Sorcerer to the Crown. My advice would be read the other book first.
The story starts off with two sisters who awake on a shore, with no memories. I have to admit, I find amnesia as a plot device (or element) to be very hard to get in to. I find it misses way more than it hits the mark for me. In this case, it made me a bit apprehensive, but I certainly didn’t write off the book. It’s not something that always fails for me, there have been some books that I have thought were amazing and the amnesia component worked well. It just tends to be the exception more than the rule for me, and unfortunately, I don’t think this book is an exception. I was not intrigued but the amnesia component like I feel like I should have been.
As Muna and Sakti begin their journey, they realize Sakti is slowly disappearing. Muna is left trying to find a way to save her sister, navigate life at court and prove herself as a magician. Of course there are characters determined to see her fail. I do enjoy seeing characters standing up and proving themselves beyond other’s expectations for them. It’s always a thrill, so from that perspective I was rooting for her.
Another area that I think I struggled with was the actual characters. I won’t say there is anything wrong with them, per se, but with Prunella in Sorcerer to the Crown, I just fell in love with reading her almost immediately. Her personality was just exciting for me and I found myself rooting for her from the very beginning. I did not find much of a connection with any of the characters in this one, much less that feeling I had with Prunella.
But it was not all bad. I do enjoy the regency setting as well as seeing characters break through other’s expectations. It’s just that the pros were not enough for me or they came too late in the book for it to really recover from the shaky start. I’ve seen many other reviews (most reviews) have a more positive experience with this book, so if you enjoyed the first one, I would definitely encourage you to try it (and I hope you will not have the same hang ups I did). If you have not read the first one, I would recommend you give that one a try first.