Her Majesty’s Royal Coven is the first in a trilogy of fantasy books by Juno Dawson, the second one was out recently and so I was playing catch up by reading the first one ahead of reading the second.

As the name might suggest this is a story dealing with witchcraft, and book deals with a group of friends who happen to be witches and have known each other since they were children. The book is mainly based in the time period of them in their mid-30’s but there are flashbacks which explore their past relationship. The main story starts 7 or 8 years after a war between magic people which had the HMRC of the title battling a rebellion of witches and warlocks who felt their extra power meant they should be in charge of everyone – the mundanes.

What starts as a fantasy story with a strong feminist bent becomes an interesting and thought provoking exploration of gender and identity, as well as attitudes towards race and loss.

The story revolves around Theo, a foundling, who is discovered to be extremely powerful who comes to live with one of the witches, Niamh. Not everyone, especially the HMRC approves as Theo is also the subject of a bleak prophecy that some feel may have tragic results for the world.

I don’t want to spoil anything so that’s all of the specific plot I will give!

The book, as mentioned, is a powerful exploration of identity and some of the plot points and conversations within the narrative mirror conversations seen about gender and identity that seems to proliferate on social media. Some of the questions raised in the book were thought provoking and there is a message as well as a cracking story.

The characters are likeable, in general, and it’s fun to inhabit their world. The narrative moves from character to character and we get an insight into their world, and with it their motivations. The story, in its own way also deals with radicalisation of thought and ideas and the journey of one character feels like it may be loosely based on the journey another fantasy author seems to have taken.  

In its own way it also deals with the power and the problem of nostalgia and how people change and people being linked by the past may not always make for healthy relationships later in life.

The initial standalone plot is resolved but at the same time it also ends on a cliffhanger that makes you very keen to read on and see what happens to these characters next.


I really enjoyed this, if you like thought provoking fantasy then there’s a lot to enjoy. Over the last few years I’ve come to enjoy fantasy books set in the modern world, such as Daniel O’Malley’s Checquy books so it’s great to find another series, and having read this I’ve already started on the sequel. How much you enjoy this book may depend on where you fall on the current “gender debate”, and the book definitely has its own view, not surprising given the author, but the way it manages to use the fantasy format to tell a story that does relate to current conversations is unusual, but the points and arguments are relevant, important and well thought out/explained, and they have these conversations as part of the story, so you don’t feel like you’re being hit over the head with it. There were a couple of small points I might have changed but it’s not my story and I’m aware that all sorts of things might be explained in a future book.

I would recommend this to everyone, it’s a great read, and the book has a compelling story with fun, humour and good characters. If you enjoy urban fantasy there’s a good chance you will like this, the story is really enjoyable and you’ll want to spend time with the characters both young and old as they grow, find their identities and take on the system, very much my kind of book!

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