cover image Her Majesty’s Royal Coven

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven

Juno Dawson. Penguin, $17 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-14-313714-6

This cleverly constructed contemporary fantasy, the adult debut from YA bestseller Dawson (This Book Is Gay), launches the HMRC series. Witches Niamh, Ciara, Helena, Leonie, and Elle have been friends since childhood. They swore their oath to the eponymous, long-standing coven—a secret mainstay of the British government—together and fought side-by-side during a brutal civil war. When, after years of peace, Theo, an impossibly powerful teenage warlock, is discovered in an orphanage, the portents foretell a new threat. As it becomes clear there’s more to Theo than meets the eye, conflict over how to handle the situation erupts among the four friends. Helena’s personal biases gradually overshadow her friendships, and she takes increasing risks to secure the safety of her coven. Though at first the story feels run-of-the-mill and seems to lack the emotional intensity that characterizes Dawson’s work for teens, a gradually building layer of political commentary ultimately reveals a complex metaphor for the U.K.’s sociopolitical climate and mainstream transphobia. This added texture is carefully balanced with a fast-paced second half and some truly surprising twists, making this an exciting new direction for Dawson. Readers will be eager for the next installment. Agent: Alyssa Reuben, Paradigm Talent Agency. (June)