By Juno Dawson
Published May 2022
I could not wait for this book to come out. I didn’t even want to endure the hold line at my library. With a B&N gift card in hand, I preordered it weeks before the release date.
I hate being disappointed. If you loved this book, you may want to skip my review.
Here’s the premise: Five friends gather on the eve of their oath to Gaia: Helena, Ciara, Niamh, Elle, and Leonie. Fast forward twenty years. They’ve all served in Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, a covert governmental organization dedicated to the UK’s defense. They’ve fought in a civil war and none of them emerged the same. Only Helena is left in HRMC, serving as the High Priestess. Ciara is locked in a mental ward, Leonie has formed her own Coven, Elle is trying to pretend she’s not a witch and Niamh just wants to live her own life.
Then along comes Theo, a teenager who has powers stronger than anyone should have and whose very presence will force the friends to choose a side. Because at the heart of this book is the question of whether Theo is simply a powerful witch or the portent of doom for all witches.
There ARE parts of this book that I adored. The tie-in of the elements to each woman’s power was really well done (I’m a sucker for a solid use of elemental powers). Theo and Niamh’s relationship was beautiful, poignant, and my favorite part of the book. Just compassionate and empowering.
However, the rest of the book left me flat. We start with a prologue, jump forward twenty years then try to keep all of these characters straight while simultaneously falling into flashbacks explaining this civil war and the effects it had on the main characters. Honestly, this should have been book two with civil war serving as the plot of the first book. It was a fairly long book, it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to get two novels out of it. With a more solid grounding in their history, I might have cared more about the characters and their motivations.
That leads me to the antagonist, Helena. About the time the book devolved into an agenda, Helena became a cardboard character. Very little attempt was made to explain her narrow-minded thinking (see my comment about better grounding in the backstory). And while some of the story lines were beautiful, uplifting and hopeful, others were bitter and divisive. I read, in part, to escape from the chaos of real life. If I want bitter and divisive, I’ll scroll through a political thread on Twitter or spend time on Facebook after a major societal crisis.
Definitely a love/hate relationship with this book. In the end, I settled on a 3 star rating. ⭐⭐⭐
I’m on the fence if I’ll read the second installment.
I’d love to hear if you had a different opinion of this book.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.