Fairyloot Adult #4: Her Majesty’s Royal Coven

At the end of last year, Fairyloot announced that they were going to launch a new product in March 2022, namely the Adult Fantasy Book-Only subscription.
While their standard subscription focuses on Young-Adult fantasy with extra goodies, this subscription would only contain fantasy books intended for an adult audience. That box would then contain only a book, with no extras.

As a subscriber to their regular YA subscription, I was given priority to sign up for this new service and as a book and fantasy enthusiast I couldn’t resist of course.

June already brought the fourth box of this subscription. The theme was Hex Appeal.
The theme card was entirely different than those from previous months, due to its extra bright colours. This was very fitting for the book of the month.

Which was Her Majesty’s Royal Coven or “HMRC” as it is abbreviated online, by new-to-me-author Juno Dawson.

For their special edition, Fairyloot went for a colour reversal again, which I personally think is a really good fit. The colours are really in your face, but not too tacky or garish.

Also for the hardcover itself Fairyloot went with a really bold colour, which is completely in line with the theme. I really like that this time the cover design has been continued on the back of the case as well.
The edges are sprayed black again, but with a nice text detail on the front.
No special illustrations on the endpapers, but a more subdued pattern, completed with the author’s autograph.

So a completely different edition colour wise than the previous books, but I really like it. But what about the book’s content?
I’m really making an effort to actually read this new additions to my bookshelf in a timely matter. I managed to read this one in October, only 3 months after receiving it.

Dawson, Juno – Her Majesty’s Royal Coven (Her Majesty’s Royal Coven #1) ★★★

Genre: Fantasy

A Discovery of Witches meets The Craft in this the first installment of this epic fantasy trilogy 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 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.

I will admit that I kind of dragged my feet to read this one. I had heard that it was very political and full of social commentary; and while I certainly won’t deny that these discussions are important, it’s really not what I want when I read a book to decompress.
So yeah, knowing this did make me less inclined to pick up this book and I’m afraid that if I hadn’t received it through this subscription, I would have probably would have kept putting it off, which would have been a bit unfair, since I did enjoy reading it. Yes, it’s true that it pushes a certain agenda forward and gets a little too heavy-handed at times, but it didn’t bother me as much as I feared and didn’t take too much away from the story.

And that story mainly was fun.
Parts of it were pretty predictable, but the majority I found highly original and compelling.
I was surprised by the scope of this story, while many important past events weren’t really explored. We’re dealing with the aftermath of a huge conflict and explore the way people react when faced with the possibility of another conflict looming at the horizon. I found it very interesting to read a story from that side of the timeline, while at the same time I sometimes lacked a bit of context or emotional connection to be able to fully grasp characters actions. This was definitely felt in the beginning and it took me some time to get immersed.

The writing style also didn’t really help me connect with the story either. It’s so distinctly British and uses a good amount of slang, which is not really inclusive for non-native speakers to find their way around. I do think that in the end I understood everything well enough, but part of me does feel that I probably missed some nuances due to choosing certain vocabulary.

But like I said, this story was mostly just a fun read, provided you can look beyond the obvious political agenda.
I was also quite surprised by the direction the story took towards the end and the ending really left me reeling. Be aware that this book ends on a cliffhanger, foreshadowing the next installment. Personally, this didn’t bother me too much, as I found the resolution of the main story sufficiently satisfying. It just makes me curious about the sequel.