I’ve been waiting for a follow up to Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho, since I turned the last page. The book was such a breath of fresh air yet, at the same time, gave me so many things I already knew I loved in historical fantasy. The True Queen, I am happy to report, is well worth the wait. I honestly can’t recall the last book that I finished with such a strong feeling of satisfied happiness.
This novel picks up several years after the events of Sorcerer to the Crown…and in a different country. Two sisters, Muna and Sakti, have been rescued from the sea around Janda Baik, Malaysia. They don’t remember who they are, other than their names—and that they have been cursed by someone powerful. Thankfully, they are taken in by Mak Genggang, the fearsome sorceress who defends the island from colonizers. But when the girls catch the attention of a local British bigwig, they are sent to the Sorceress Royal of England (one of the protagonists of Sorcerer to the Crown) to finally sort things out. Things get even worse for the sisters when, on a shortcut through Fairy, Sakti is whisked away and her magic-less sister arrives in England alone.
Zacharias Wythe, the primary protagonist of Sorcerer to the Crown, only makes brief appearances in this novel. Instead, Muna takes center stage as she tries to find her sister and get un-cursed. Her only allies are a polong and Henrietta Stapleton, the best friend of the Sorceress Royal. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but Muna has a very strategic mind that makes the best of any tool or advantage that comes her way. That very strategic mind is repeatedly tested as Muna ends up in the middle of a fight between Fairy and England, a bunch of tangential power grabs, and a revelation that sharp-eyed readers will see coming long before Muna figures things out.
While I loved a lot about The True Queen, there was one thing that annoyed me. There are multiple scenes in which Muna, Henrietta, and others offer to sacrifice themselves to save someone else and have to argue their case repeatedly. One or two of these would have been plenty, but I lost count of how often this scene repeated itself. Thankfully, the pure joy of the ending made up for a lot of my annoyance. I’m 37 years old and I was in serious risk of, as the kids say, squee-ing over the whole thing.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.