Book Review: Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson

‘Her Majesty’s Royal Coven’ is a novel by Juno Dawson, which follows an ensemble cast of middle aged witches living in the UK. These witches are, or were once, affiliated with the nation’s primary coven for witches: Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, (shortened to HMRC) and served together during a war against Dabney Hale and his insurrectionists several years prior.

Primarily, the story follows Niamh, who is grieving the loss of her late fiancé, Conrad, and coming to terms with the scars Hale’s rebellion left on her family. When Niamh is contacted by her childhood friend and new High Priestess of HMRC, Helena, to inform her that she requires assistance interrorgating a young boy who is feared to be the subject of a prophecy. A prophecy that foretells the End of Days.

Unconvinced that Theo could possibly prove to be a threat, and is more likely deathly afraid, having come into his power after great trauma and stress, Niamh takes him home to try and break down his walls. Whilst also juggling tutoring her friend Elle’s daughter in witchcraft, and later Helena’s daughter, Snow, Niamh feels very out of her depth, but wants to do what’s best for Theo.

The elements of found family and sisterhood are strong in this story, and Dawson navigates the idea of queer relationships, and trans witches in a world where magical prowess is dictated by gender was very interesting and exciting. I was quick to immerse myself in Niamh’s world, and the women she considered family.

Furthermore, the world building was impeccable. Especially when it came to Leonie’s coven, an intersectional coven in Soho, which offered wisdom and community for witches of colour that had been ostracised by HMRC in the past. Leonie’s experiences as a queer witch of colour were insightful and invaluable when highlighting the systemic flaws in the system which Helena was a symbol of. Was Helena’s own internalised homophobia, transphobia and misogyny just adding fuel to the fire of an already tired Government faction? Was the High Priestess truly a reflection of the coven as a whole? Her distance from HMRC allowed many questions to be asked, and answered. I loved her insight. It was invaluable as the story progressed and tensions rose.

My favourite character by far, however, was Annie Device. I loved the idea that an oracle lived in a cluttered house, blind, and yet had an affinity for wigs and a lust for life. She was a character you got to know quickly, an experienced, practiced hand with great power. I really enjoyed reading about her and her colourful life and exploits.

The ending, however, had me absolutely horrified, although there were hints that Niamh had unfinished business to attend to, the ramifications of facing the truth behind her trauma in the face, had me mortified. How? Why! What? What’s going to happen now? Things had just settled down? Is the prophecy going to be filled because of this event, or something else that happened earlier in the book? Or is the catalyst awaiting in the next book?

That ending had me online, looking for the release date for book two, The Shadow Cabinet, immediately. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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