Reviews

The True Queen, by Zen Cho

elevetha's review against another edition

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2.0

Pre:



Post:

Ah disappointing. Predictable as feta. This bugged me, even if that wasn't meant to be a secret, maybe it should have been. And no, not the biggest fan of the relationships in this one.

brokebybooks's review against another edition

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5.0

I read Sorcerer to the Crown for the first time right before reading this one TBH. The True Queen flows perfectly from it.

I still really fucking love Prunella. Zacharias continues to get better. We see little of them as a honeymoon phase couple, sadly. But what I see, I like.

The romance level is exactly the same: companionship, glances & guesses. Except no one is suggestive or teasing about the w/w couple. Which sucks. I felt cheated out of more in a way absent from the Sorcerer to the Crown.

I love the unique POVs while learning more about Faerie, dragons, and the island.

I didn't see villian coming. I didn’t see the solution to the character’s problems though it was obvious retrospectively. I saw part of the ending coming & I think most would but how it comes about & turns out was all surprise. And getting there was all good.

I'd love more of the series. BUT I'd want more resoluteness & on page romance before the very end. Especially if the couple is marginalized. Why only white ppl & supernatural get to romance on page in fantasy?

I mean, I’ll read them but I won’t be as satisfied even if the other qualities continue to remain the same gold standard.

tome15's review

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4.0

Cho, Zen. The True Queen. Sorcerer Royal No. 2. Ace, 2019.
Malaysian fantasy author Zen Cho is a hot property. It has been five years since the first novel in this series appeared, and judging from the reviews, her readers thought the wait was worth it. But for me, the elements of this novel don’t quite come together. It begins well enough with the story of two sisters who suddenly appear on a fictional island, and who both suffer from amnesia. They are taken in by a local witch, who tells them someone has stolen something from them. One sister, Sakti, has an abundance of magical ability but is overconfident and self-absorbed. The other, Muna, lacks magical ability but is kind and self-sacrificing. Clearly, one sister needs to learn humility, and the other needs to gain self-confidence. I like the story arc that it produces, but then the plot starts. The witch sends them on a magical journey to London to discover who has stolen pieces of their souls. They arrive at a London that is a bit like Jane Austen’s world, except that there are dragons and other magical creatures masquerading in human form and an aristocracy rife with magicians and more racial and ethnic diversity than Jane Austen ever dreamed of. From here on the book adds genre tropes and punching prosocial buttons—critiquing discrimination based on race, class, and gender. The sisters’ coming of age story, the whimsical fairy world, and the Regency romance with its anachronistic social themes all too often get in each other’s way. Cho has a nice prose style and good command of the smaller elements of her narrative structure, so it is easy to see why her fans are drawn to her. 4 stars, but it is not for me.

anna_hepworth's review against another edition

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5.0

I probably missed some of the subtleties of this book, not least in what to expect from various characters, not having read book 1. My assumption is that the protagonist, Muna, is new to this books, as is the original setting in Janda Baik, but by chapter 5 the story has moved to England, and introduces rather a lot of characters in a hurry -- I did not at any point get some of them sorted out, and I'm not sure how much of that is because they weren't particularly relevant to this story, and how much was that they are generally back ground characters.

The plot is a relatively simple one in places, but there are a lot of twists and turns to get from one point to the next. I'm not sure how obvious the author meant for some of those twists to be, but it was certainly relatively obvious in places what was going to happen later. This isn't a complaint -- I like seeing how a story unfolds, regardless of whether I know what is going to happen.

There are places where the story is quite nasty. Not just in terms of 'period appropriate' misogyny and racism, but in terms of the individual interactions. There were a couple of sections where I thought the number of twists and turns of the story meant it was about to devolve into farce, and was pleased that it did not.

On the positive, there are some lovely explorations of what family means, in particular how sisters interact. This isn't necessarily all positive interaction, but the cross-cultural nature of the narrative means that there are some very different perspectives to explore.

erin_boyington's review against another edition

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3.0

My love for Sorcerer to the Crown remains unchanged, but my complaint with this sequel is that it barely has any trace of Zacharias and Prunella, who I ship forever. Muna and Sakti just don't have the same power in my imagination, and Mak Genggang is gone too soon. (I 100% wanted a story about the sorceress suffragette movement!)

The romance in the end felt a bit out of the blue - maybe I just missed the signals? And Muna is supposed to be smart, so her missing the glaringly obvious truth about herself seems out of character. It takes away much of the narrative tension of the book's last half.

Anyway, my assessment is purely individual and there are plenty of others who have loved this second book just as much as the first. (It's the reaction of someone who expected something salty and got sweet instead!)

rhonig's review against another edition

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4.0

The True Queen is a delightful follow up to Sorcerer to the Crown, which cleverly weaves in the previous book's plot and characters while telling a new tale centered on a new character, Muna. The mix of British period romance with magic and fantastical creatures is pure whimsy, but at its core, the story is a powerful tale about women chafing against an oppressive society.

nomiddlename's review against another edition

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4.0

An exciting tale of all the things that can go wrong when you don’t follow a wise old woman’s advice. The end was warm and fuzzy, made me go “aw”.

ericaf95's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional hopeful tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

Coming up with a rating for this novel was the easiest part of this review, because it completely blew it's predecessor out of the water, and I gave that one four stars. Not to mention, I enjoyed literally every aspect of this book.

Zen Cho is exceptionally talented at crafting a satisfying ending. I experienced this with Sorcerer to the Crown, and as I was reading the last chapter of The True Queen, I found myself feeling more and more satisfied with the way things ended for all the characters.

My chief complaints with Sorcerer to the Crown were that it took a while to get going in terms of action, and the intensity of the racism and misogyny in it were such that if it had been written by a white man, instead of a Malaysian woman, I probably wouldn't have had enough faith in the author to keep going

Neither of those issues were present here. The action starts pretty much immediately. Satki and Muna wash up on the shores on Janda Baik with no recollection of who they are, and are cared for by Mak Genggang (the best character in the first book, by far). I had so much fun with both the characters and the journey of the plot that it didn't bother me in the least that I had figured out what the big twist was going to be by chapter four.

I don't think the world Zen Cho has constructed in fantasy England was in any way more tolerant of nonwhite people and magical women (though an argument could be made here for
Spoilerthe amount of work Prunella has done to force them to at least not openly suppress women using magic),
but I do think that the characters were less tolerant of their society's intolerance. Muna comes from a place where
Spoilerwomen are free to work magic as they wish, and has no interest in tolerating snide comments from old old racist paintings, and I love her for it. Prunella has always been bold and self-assured, but the difference is now she has power. England's first Sorceress Royal is a half-Indian woman who founded a school designed to teach and nurture magic in girls and women and no one can say shit about it because she's the most powerful woman in Britain,
and I found that utterly delightful. 

Frankly, I don't blame Zacharias for
Spoilerhanding the Sorcerer Royal's staff over to Prunella
. His life sounds awesome.

I was initially eager to read this book because I was told it was significantly gayer than the first once, and Zen Cho really came through for me there. Her romances are in no way the focal point of her novels, and the understated way she wove the development of
SpoilerMuna and Henrietta's relationship throughout their adventures
worked for me. A lot. There's very little that thrills me more than reading something that fills me with unfettered joy on the axis of being a queer woman, and this book did that very, very well.

It's been a while since I read a book I deemed worthy of five stars, and I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I will definitely be reading more of Zen Cho's works in the future.


krychell's review against another edition

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hopeful informative lighthearted reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.25

first zen cho book i read ! love the malaysian representation and how we got to see the difference of malaysian magic vs english magic 

all i wanted was more in depth queer storyline and also more adventure :/

aletta's review against another edition

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4.0

3.5 stars