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The True Queen by Zen Cho

The True Queen (Sorcerer Royal #2) - Zen Cho

This is a light, fun fantasy very much in line with its prequel, Sorcerer to the Crown. I’d forgotten most of that one, which was fine because this is a new story with a new set of protagonists, though with some overlap in characters. It begins with sisters Muna and Sakti, who wake up on a beach in Malaysia with no idea who they are – but who soon learn that they’ve been cursed. Muna makes her way to Regency England, but Sakti is stolen away to the Fairy Court, leaving Muna responsible for rescuing her.

It’s a quick, entertaining, and at times humorous read, though the plot meanders a bit in the first half and only really picks up in the second. In a neat trick, all of the most important characters in the book, heroes, villains, and mentors alike, are female – a nice touch in a genre where female characters are still noticeably in the minority, and done without lampshading, so that I only realized this at the end. There’s also some racial and cultural diversity; in another nice touch, Muna and Sakti are clearly Muslim, without the author making a big deal of it. And yes, there's a lesbian subplot, but it's so understated that if you're reading just for that, you may be disappointed.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for deep and complex characterization, this is not your book. This is fun escapist reading, an unambitious novel that sets out to entertain and then does exactly that. Early on I found myself wanting more depth, but by the end I was happy with what it was and wished I could find more books like this – books that are lighthearted and enjoyable without being stupid. I’d recommend it, though best to start with the first book to avoid being spoiled.