Her Majesty’s Royal Coven Book Review


A Discovery of Witches meets The Craft in this the first instalment 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.


For months I had been seeing this bright hot pink book cover all over every one of my social media accompanied by the soothing gothic tune of Lana Del Ray’s cover of Season of the Witch (banger). Finally, the day came when I walked into my local Big W, bypassing the baby section, board games and their assortment of nickers, where I saw a bright hot pink end display of Juno Dawson’s latest release Her Majesty’s Royal Coven. I bought it immediately. What can I say the marketing spoke to me. It knew my generation. It knew how much we froth witchy vibes and nostalgic spice girls references and woke af representation. I am merely a cog in the machine you cannot blame me.

Luckily, I really loved this book! I loved it so much that I wrote a book report on it and its marketing strategies while simultaneously reading it for my degree. But don’t get it twisted, this book about witches doesn’t just regurgitate witch lore and historical depictions of witches, it shows witches how… well women typically see them. As women.

Each witch is a unique character unto and of herself. You have the corporate climber, the mum with the picture perfect life who hides her magick, we have the vet who lives in a small town with a love for fresh produce and horor films, and a takes-no-shit black woman creating her own inclusive coven that wlecomes and celebrates coloured witches. Their friendship is the real lead in this story and it is full of ups and downs and betrayals and secrets and too much wine and singing the Spice Girls songs in the street. I LIVED.

What I enjoyed the most about this story is that it really does show these witches as ordinary people with extraordinary powers. I know many other stories try to do the same, but they don’t always hit the mark. HMRC hits the mark 100%. I think this is helped by the fact that it’s set in the modern-day UK and is delightfully peppered with pop culture references. Not too much. Just enough. As well as their magick has limits, rules and drawbacks like everything else in nature. Yet, it’s empowering and beautiful still that made me want to walk out under the moonlight nude and just enjoy mother nature (I’m a green witch what can I say). I think people who enjoy Practical Magic, book or film version, will enjoy HMRC a lot.

Okay, here’s were some spoilers are coming so consider yourself warned.

Another thing that I loved about HMRC is the concept of a witch born as a boy but knows they’re a girl inside, can still be a witch, not a warlock. It gave me Terry Pratchet Equal Rites vibes but on a sister wavelength to his commentary on gendered magic. Theo made my heart smile so much and I felt like the conversation points surrounding transness were done effectively, educationally, and not in your face. So, it’s a good stepping stone for people who may not know much or haven’t considered much about trans issues. I realise that the UK is hammered with trans coverage in their mainstream media, rising 400% since the start of COVID (here’s a fab article), but as far as I can tell it isn’t as prevalent in the mainstream media in other countries.

This leads me to another aspect of why you should read this book and what I love about it. J.K. Rowling (ick) is largely responsible for much of the transphobia in the UK, and anyone with Twitter really, as she’s been very vocal about her standpoint and even published an essay on it. HMRC tackles this in two joyous ways.

First, Dawson released her trans-positive and queer-inclusive book only weeks before Rowling released her latest story, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, The Ink Black Heart, in which she has her character ‘cancelled’ with strikingly similar events to those in her own life. Funny how Rowling is so against trans people’s rights but is happy to only publish under a man’s name and ungendered name… (That’s suspicious. That’s weird). By releasing her novel before Rowling, Dawson is more likely to sway heads away from supporting a transphobic author with her simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming story about a trans girl just trying to be happy. Dawson is very vocal on her social media and in interviews about queerness and trans issues. She’s a real figurehead that the community can look up to in her efforts. So, what Dawson has done is create a lot of positive conversation about trans representation and rights (even for those who haven’t/won’t read HMRC) ahead of a book that will likely re-spark negative commentary.

Secondly, Dawson’s story is the answer to the Harry Potter-sized hole in millennials’ hearts who can’t bring themselves to support their previously much-loved books by a transphobic author. I personally never much liked the books (what I read) and found the movies a slightly better adaptation. HMRC has the magical battles, the tests of friendship and the integrated modern world that HP has, only it’s centred on female characters rather than a chosen one boy. In this story the ‘chosen one’ (kind of) is trans and I just freaking love that so much. Also, Juno Dawson is a trans woman which makes it all the more amazing.

Considering Juno Dawson’s previous books have all been young adult-focused, I was so happy to enjoy her writing style. I was somewhat worried that it would still read/feel a bit ya, but it absolutely didn’t. I related to these women so much because I’m at a similar point in my life as them. It was refreshing to read a magical story that didn’t pin the focus on characters discovering the magic. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series and I will NOT be okay if that ending actually ended the way that it appears to have ended. They need to pull some magical miracle for my girl or I’ll be devastated.

RATING – 5/5 stars
Publisher – HarperVoyager
Author – Juno Dawson
ISBN – 9780008478513


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: