Her Majesty's Royal Coven: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
“Superb and almost unbearably charming, Her Majesty’s Royal Coven… expertly launches an exciting new trilogy." —The New York Times Book Review
"Talk about a gut punch of a novel. …A provocative exploration of intersectional feminism, loyalty, gender and transphobia [that] invites readers into an intricately woven web of magic, friendship and power." —The Nerd Daily
A Discovery of Witches meets The Craft in this epic fantasy about a group of childhood friends who are also witches.
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 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.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 56 minutes|
|Audible.ca Release Date||May 31 2022|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #11,795 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#18 in LGBTQ2S+ Science Fiction & Fantasy
#628 in Contemporary Fantasy (Books)
#1,530 in Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
Top reviews from other countries
I have been excited for months about this novel with its premise of a royal sanctioned coven. However, it proved different to what I was expecting, which is a lesson in itself. My response was mixed. In some respects the writing felt very YA or Chicklit. I enjoyed this playfulness at times but other times it just didn’t work for me.
‘Her Majesty’s Royal Coven’ is the first in a series centred around a secret government agency tasked to use magic to protect Britain from various supernatural threats. The original coven was created by Queen Anne Boleyn and has continued down through the centuries to the present day.
When they were young, five friends took the Oath and entered the HMRC. Twenty five years pass in the turning of a page. The eldest, Helena, has risen to be the organisation’s High Priestess. Leonie left the coven to found Disporia, an inclusive and intersectional coven. Elle left the magical world completely and is a housewife, though her daughter, Holly, is showing signs of magical powers so Mum might have to come out of the broom closet. Niamh is semi-retired and using her magical gifts as a country veterinarian. The fifth of the young witches, Ciara, Niamh’s twin, has been in a hospital for some years in a coma like state. Intriguing!
All is well until a Minority Report style prophecy about a ‘sullied child’ who will summon the Leviathan and the end of witchkind and men resurfaces. A young warlock (the term Juno uses for male witches) has been captured after displaying remarkable powers. Helena begs Niamh to return to the HMRC to help ascertain whether this young warlock is dangerous …. Niamh does and makes a connection with Theo, the ‘boychild’. So, Theo is entrusted to her care.
However, when Theo confides to Holly that she is not a boy but trans and Holly shares this with her Mum who shares it with… (you get the idea), it is panic time - well at least for Helena. She is seriously triggered, ‘end of the world as we know it’ style. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers but yeah. Still, the majority of characters are supportive of Theo, who certainly seems innocent enough even if her powers are in need of training.
In parts this novel was quite good though I did have some issues. I am not a fan of magic and witchcraft in fiction that involves teleportation and these kind of physical feats and pyrotechnics. It’s okay in fluffy witchy fantasies but I had expected this to be more grounded in historical witchcraft and magic.
Also, while I appreciated that Dawson wanted to address issues associated with identity, it felt as though this quickly dominated the plot. It just felt far too political for my taste. Also, Helena morphs into such a cartoon baddie: sent bonkers by the idea of a young transwoman being admitted to ‘her’ coven. It seemed to be a wasted opportunity to demonstrate that people can get over their limited world-views.
Also, Juno Dawson has created a magical world that is very polarised by gender. In the real world covens are made up of both women and men, so the idea of a witch getting the vapours over seeing male bits was just bizarre. How much Dawson was informed by the occult and witchcraft community was unclear to me. There have been ‘women only’ covens arising from the feminist movement and these may be closer to her vision for HMRC.
I did enjoy the use of pop culture throughout the novel and fun dialogue between the characters.
With respect to the audiobook, full marks to Nicola Coughlan. I have adored her work in Derry Girls and Bridgerton. (Team Penelope!) She was a splendid narrator, handling a variety of accents with ease and her timing was excellent. Please may she narrate the series!
Overall, while I found ‘Her Majesty’s Royal Coven’ heavy-handed on gender identity politics (and don’t get me started on the ending!) it will be interesting to see how the plot unfolds and characters develop in the next book.
In terms of rating, the novel on its own was an ‘it’s okay’ 3 stars for me; yet Nicola Coughlan’s narration was so good that my rating is higher for the audiobook and so 4 stars.