The Shadow Cabinet is the second in the HMRC trilogy of fantasy books by Juno Dawson.

This sequel follows on from where the first book finishes and I’ll try to make the review as spoiler free as possible.

The book, again follows the friendship of the original witches from the first book, and their children/adopted children.

One of the friends is to take on the role of High Priestess. But why are the sinister government agents of the Shadow Cabinet so invested in her coronation, and is all as it seems?

And then there’s the small matter of Dabney Hale: freshly escaped from Grierlings prison towards the end of the first book, he’s on the hunt for a mythical object that will give him unimaginable power. Leonie’s brother is on the trail, but doesn’t know the danger he now faces, and so she sets off to bring him home and bring Hale to justice.

Meanwhile, Theo and Holly are left to their own devices. Theo to work out how her miraculous transformation took place and Holly to discover what’s going on with her mum and dad. Elle’s Instagram-perfect world is about to come crashing down in the most terrifying way.

I don’t want to spoil anything so that’s all of the specific plot I will give, and is pretty much taken from the blurb!

The first book, as previously reviewed, is a powerful exploration of identity, and whilst this book certainly covers that area a well it felt to me like it was exploring something I felt was hinted at in the first book but feels like it takes centre stage here and that’s toxic masculinity. Most of the characters in the book have flaws, and there’s only a few male characters who seem to avoid being toxic, and at least one of them is seen in flashback and is currently dead.  

The main characters are, as said are all flawed, but they all embrace those flaws and I think we learn a lot more about the characters we met in the first book, and their adventures continue. The cliffhangers that ended the first book are all tied up or at least explored further as the world of witches opens up beyond the UK.

In the first book the story felt like it was Niamh’s, Theo and Helena’s, the second book splits its time more equally between all of the main characters and we learn more about Leonie and Elle, and also more about the past of Niamh and Ciara and the background to the war. There are new antagonists as well with descendents of the Witchfinders making an appearance as well as new demons and even the Government themselves. The HMRC themselves feels like the issues and cracks shown in the first book have grown.

Like the first book this ends on a cliffhanger, though the cliffhanger didn’t have the same power for me as the first book as I felt that this had been signposted so strongly, and whilst it is still possible there’s a surprise coming n the third book, at the moment the cliffhanger feels very signposted.


Like the first one there was much to really like in this. The witty dialogue and warm characters are the backbone of this series, and after the second I found myself sad this is a trilogy and found myself hoping Dawson will expand that to an ongoing series. The gender conversations started in the first book continue here but are secondary to the conversation about toxic masculinity, and whilst not all of the male characters have that, all of them have considerable flaws, at the moment really only Niamh’s late husband, and possibly Leonie’s brother don’t seem to have any large and toxic character flaws, but that feels like a small thing as it fits in with the book. I don’t want anyone to think this is a huge anti-male book, it’s very much not, all of the characters, male and female are flawed, and it is a book that focuses on the female characters and as such often the male characters are secondary, and are often used to move along aspects of the plot around the female characters. Luke is the only male character who feels like he has his own plot, asnd is more than just part ofd the witches plot. One of the highlights of this is the character journey that Ciara goes through, and the way her viewpoint changes as her memories return, and her awkward relationship at times with Theo.  it will certainly make for an interesting finale.  Like the first one this is highly recommended but you do need to have read the first one to get the best of this. My biggest problem with this book may be that I now have to wait a year until the next one is released!

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