Her Majesty’s Royal Coven

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.

This was ok. I must admit that this book was a little different to what I was expecting. I was looking forward to a story about a group of school friends being reunited and finding that their friendship is different now. I kind of got that. However, this book was mainly about a prophesied child witch and witchy politics. So, while it was still an enjoyable enough read, it wasn’t what I was expecting.

I kept forgetting there were four adult women characters. Helena felt distinct from the other main characters because she was a big old TERF and a Tory. But Niamh, Elle, and Leonie felt interchangeable and I kept getting confused about which one was which.

I hated the amount of POV given to Helena. I would have understood if this intended to humanise or to explain why she felt the way that she did but it didn’t. She was a pantomime villain of a character so it was already clear that she was an awful person. The sections devoted to her character just reinforced it and didn’t really add anything.

I cannot understand why a group of friends wouldn’t tell their friend that their partner was cheating on them. That’s definitely breaking a rule of friendship.

This was my first of Juno Dawson’s books and I believe this was her first piece of adult fiction. This didn’t feel like adult fiction though, it felt like YA. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I enjoy reading YA. I just was looking forward to some adult fiction. The book focused perhaps 1/3 of the plot on the group of kids which I wasn’t expecting and honestly I didn’t feel like reading a book about teenage witches. I wanted a story about adult witches and all the drama that comes with childhood friendships all grown up. I didn’t enjoy the teenage dramas and found all of the youths (bar Theo) to just be so whiny. Snow was especially annoying. Her last appearance in the book was just ridiculous. She’s old enough to understand what happened.

The last chapter is the reason that I bumped this book up from a 2.5 to a 3. The last chapter was amazing and I’m so disappointed that the rest of the book wasn’t just like that.

This was the first book in a trilogy and I don’t think I’ll read the next two books but I will look at the spoiler reviews because I have a theory. I just don’t really want to continue with the series but I may check out some of Juno Dawson’s YA books.

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