Her Majesty’s Royal Coven
by Juno Dawson
Adult Fantasy, LGBTQ+
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.
Juno Dawson explores gender and the corrupting nature of power in a delightful and provocative story of magic and matriarchy, friendship and feminism. Dealing with all the aspects of contemporary womanhood, as well as being phenomenally powerful witches, Niamh, Helena, Leonie and Elle may have grown apart but they will always be bound by the sisterhood of the coven.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me an advanced proof copy in exchange for an honest review!
I mean, I don’t even know where to begin with Her Majesty’s Royal Coven? With the fact that it has cemented Juno Dawson as one of my favourite authors? With the fact that it has everything in the world that I love merged together in one book? With the fact that I have never been left on a bigger cliffhanger and I am quite literally going to die unless I find out what happens next? Or maybe that Dawson’s foray into adult fiction is a complete success and this novel is absolutely going to be one of the standouts of 2022. Yeah, all of the above.
Her first adult novel follows a Spice Girls esque coven of witches, who used to be close but drifted apart. Then when an ancient prophecy begins to surface, they are forced to come together again, despite their differences and how much they have changed, and face the greatest battle they can imagine.
God, this was a total triumph from Dawson. I’ve obviously been following her books for a while now, and have loved everything I’ve read – but this was next level. If she had not already found her footing before as a writer, then there can be no argument that she has not now with HMRC. A masterclass in pacing, character, story, wit and warmth. There are a plethora of characters in this novel but not a single one is wasted, same with the plots of the book. So much happens, and Dawson does an incredible job of weaving it all together so perfectly and leaving the reader breathless for the next page before they’ve even finished the one they’re on.
What I loved most about this was the really subtle but also in-your-face commentaries on so many issues in our society today: gender, sexuality, womanhood, family, identity. This was just an incredible read, and it was bloody hilarious. You will seriously not want to miss out on this novel when it’s out next month. I couldn’t recommend it enough.