Her Majesty’s Royal Coven (2022) is the first novel in Juno Dawson’s new adult fantasy series following a secret coven of witches that have worked within the British Government since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. When a young warlock with unmeasurable power threatens not only the coven, but the whole world, four life-long friends find themselves on opposite sides, fighting the threat of demons and for what they think is right.
This novel is the perfect example of how a narrative can be explicitly written for adults with mature themes and a highlight on adult-life problems, yet interweave magic and imagination reminiscent of stories from our childhood. The magic system itself feels rooted in reality as it’s accompanied by a rich history and complex politics.
With the four main characters – Niamh, Elle, Leonie and Helena – being friends since childhood, there’s a real focus throughout this novel on how childhood friendships are unlike any other sort of relationship. It explores the pressure to keep these bonds alive after so long, and how so much history with a person can make you blind to who they’ve become.
These female characters also have a clear sense of identity as each of them represents the fact there’s no one way to be a woman or a witch. This is especially prevalent with the inclusion of a transgender teen girl who plays a prominent role in the story and the central conflict.
While the chapter perspectives switch between the four main women, the story is never told from the perspective of the transgender teen, nor does she speak verbally until the very end of the novel. During her event at the 2023 York Literature Festival, Juno Dawson explained this was a deliberate choice to mirror the real life issues the transgender community face – how trans youth are always talked about, but never talked to. During her appearance Dawson revealed that Her Majesty’s Royal Coven was originally inspired by the idea of ‘Desperate Housewives but with witches’. While that initial idea grew and morphed as Juno Dawson wrote this during the Covid quarantine, a lockdown project she describes as ‘better than banana bread’, it’s interesting to look back on the book and see how these influences manifested in the final draft.
Elli-Mai Freeman is a second year English Literature and Creative Writing student who spends more time daydreaming about being a successful writer than actually writing. She’s not quite sure what career path she would like to go down but hopes to be writing books, or at the very least writing about books in the future.