The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson

The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson book cover

Buy The Shadow Cabinet here – U.S. | U.K. | International
Read Fantasy Book Critic‘s review of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, book one in the series, here

Official Author Website

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Juno Dawson is the international bestselling author of Young Adult novels and non-fiction, including the bestselling CLEAN and THIS BOOK IS GAY, as well as a novelist, screenwriter, journalist, and a columnist for Attitude Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Glamour, Dazed, Grazia and the Guardian, and she and was chosen by Val McDermid as one of the ten most compelling LGBTQ+ writers working in the UK today.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: In the second installment of Juno Dawson’s “irresistable” fantasy trilogy (Lana Harper), a group of childhood friends and witches must choose between what is right and what is easy if they have any hope of keeping their coven–and their world–from tearing apart forever.
Niamh Kelly is dead. Her troubled twin, Ciara, now masquerades as the benevolent witch as Her Majesty’s Royal Coven prepares to crown her High Preistess.

Suffering from amnesia, Ciara can’t remember what she’s done–but if she wants to survive, she must fool Niamh’s adopted family and friends; the coven; and the murky Shadow Cabinet–a secret group of mundane civil servants who are already suspicious of witches. While she tries to rebuild her past, she realizes none of her past has forgotten her, including her former lover, renegade warlock Dabney Hale.

On the other end of the continent, Leonie Jackman is in search of Hale, rumored to be seeking a dark object of ultimate power somehow connected to the upper echelons of the British government. If the witches can’t figure out Hale’s machinations, and fast, all of witchkind will be in grave danger–along with the fate of all (wo)mankind.

Sharp, funny, provocative, and joyous, Juno Dawson’s sequel reimagines everything you think you knew about her coven and her witches in a story that spans continents and dives deep into the roots of England and its witchcraft. Ciara, Leonie, Elle, and Theo are fierce, angry, sexy, warm–and absolutely unapologetic as they fight for what they believe in, all in the name of sisterhood.

FORMAT/INFO: The Shadow Cabinet is the second book in the Her Majesty’s Royal Coven series. It is available in paperback, hardcover, ebook and audio formats via Harper Collins in the U.K. and by Penguin Random House in the U.S. from June 2023.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I really enjoyed Juno Dawson’s take on modern urban fantasy in Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, and this proved to be a worthy successor in many ways.

It picks up right after the events of book one, and has a really concise Who’s Who section that I really appreciated. I generally do not have much trouble recalling previous entries in series, but this served as a really good and concise reminder of what transpired, and that really did help me get through the first few chapters faster than I would otherwise have.

As promised by book one, the series is quickly shaping up to be my recommendation for adults who want a world with pop culture references, witches and mundanes, but contains characters who have been through extremely relatable struggles in life. My complaint with the previous was that the writing needed more work, and yes, the writing has improved considerably in this one. And while the first was more contained in terms of the setting, this feels a bit more expansive as one characters gets around the globe, and it was one of my favourite parts. Cannot wait for more of that.

Two things to keep in mind: One, Juno Dawson does not underestimate the reader. There are multiple viewpoints in each book, and with the loss of a significant one in the first, there are more added here to give interesting perspectives into the events in the story. There is absolutely no talking down to the reader. Two, the author also does not underestimate teenagers, given how she writes the teen viewpoint in the story. I really like that the book provides equal focus on the perspectives of the teen, as well as the adults trying to save the day.

This book continues to explore character backstories, and the hurt they’e been through, and they act in a myriad of ways. While a big theme is sexism, gender and identity politics, and all of this is woven well into modern day events that readers will recognise, another, more silent theme here is that hurt people can choose not to hurt people, and I love how it shows in certain interactions. Many characters have been through unfair situations, but they recognise that back payment is not really a solution.

A miss for me, I cannot exactly put my finger on what’s a bit missing here. Maybe it’s middle book syndrome, or maybe it’s because some events, big as they are, feel a bit rushed. I glossed over that because of the twists and revelations in this one, and there was one at the end that was in no way predictable.

CONCLUSION: A fun story series with magic well woven into the mundane that does not lose sight of present day political issues. It’s an easy recommend from me.

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