Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Publisher: Ace Books
Genre: Fantasy / Historical
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.
Story Locale: Regency England, fantasy world
Series Overview: The future of British magic is in question in this acclaimed Regency set fantasy series.
The True Queen is the second installment in author Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown series. This story takes on different character than the first book. There are a few notable exceptions like Prunella Wythe Gentleman and Mak Genggang, but it is Muna and Sakti who are the main characters in this story along with Henrietta Stapleton who just happens to be Prunella's friend. As the opens, readers learn that it has been 2 years since we left Prunella and her now husband Zacharias Wythe the former Sorcerer to the Crown.
Muna and Sakti find themselves on the island of Janda Baik, Straits of Malacca (Malaysia) where they have no memories of how they got here or from before. Muna has no magical ability at all while Sakti has an abundance. Both appear to have been cursed, and the suspected culprit carries a surname that readers of Sorcerer to the Crown will be familiar with. Mak Genggang ships the sisters off to England, for Sakti to apprentice under the Sorceress Royal Prunella Wythe, and Muna to keep her sister company.
While taking a shortcut through Fairy to their destination, Sakti disappears, leaving Muna to fend for herself when she reaches England. Pretending at having magic while scheming to find a way back into Fairy, Muna befriends Prunella’s schoolmate Henrietta Stapleton, who has trials of her own to face. Meanwhile, Prunella has been busy avoiding assassination attempts, politics, while also opening an academy for girls. She also has to worry about the Fairy Queen waging war on England's magicians after she is accused of stealing something valuable from the Queen.
Since this story takes place in Regency-era Britain, you will get the usual background about misogynistic men who despise women who play with magic, and those who aren't white, well, how dare Prunella invade their territory! I mean, really! And, to make matters worse, Prunella is married to a man who is even darker than she is! SHAME!! (Sorry if I offended anyone. But, this is what the British shout whenever they are in Parliament. I'm always curious as if one of them will break out the billy club and start a melee.)
In many ways, this story is the complete opposite of Sorcerer to the Crown. We barely see Zacharias, Prunella is more of a secondary character than a primary one, and even more characters like Rollo and Pogo play bit parts in this story. I found the mystery of what happened to Muna and Sakti's mystery pretty quickly. Even though Muna is center stage, it is Sakti who was the more forceful personality, the more strong-willed and impulsive than her meeker and more pensive sibling.
It was pretty obvious that the author was attempting to appeal to a wider audience with the pairing of certain male and female characters together. I think Henrietta was a fine character all to herself. She has a curious family who she claims doesn't know anything about her magic use, and yet they prove her wrong. Don't ever think you can fool your parents. They will find out one way or the other.