REVIEW: The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson

The Shadow Cabinet is the follow-up to last year’s Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, taking us back to Juno Dawson’s reimagining of a powerful coven as part of the UK government. For those of you not familiar with the UK government, the Shadow Cabinet is the official opposition, and HMRC stands for His (or Her) Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. The Shadow Cabinet ties on straight to the – rather abrupt and exciting – ending of the first book. Thus, as this is the second book in a series and very much tied up with events of the first, I will not be able to completely avoid spoilers in this review. Please read with caution if you’ve yet to read Her Majesty’s Royal Coven.

Cover of The Shadow CabinetNiamh Kelly is taking over HMRC. Her friends think that all is well – Theo is safe, the old leadership defeated, and Niamh is the best person for the job. But what they don’t know is that they’re not talking to Niamh. Niamh is dead after something has woken up her comatose twin, Ciara – and Ciara has taken over Niamh’s life. And she’ll do whatever it takes to live. And Leonie is trying to hunt down an old adversary, Dabney Hale, following his footsteps across Europe. Meanwhile, Elle learns that her husband’s been cheating on her. Oh, and Luke, Niamh’s boyfriend is a witch hunter. Life in and around HMRC is pretty damn complicated.

In this world, HRMC is a coven tied up with the UK government at large. This makes it a bureaucratic institution, and well-founded rage against the current state of affairs in our country is a central theme in the series. The first book was very much a story of trans rage and standing up for those you love, whereas The Shadow Cabinet is the story of toxic masculinity, of female rage, of deciding enough is enough. It is a more mature book, along with its characters, though no less an angry one. Theo, who was at the centre of the first book, takes more of a background role, while Niamh and Ciara, as well as Leonie take on the highlighted roles in this story.

These books are well-written and compelling, interacting with contemporary issues, conversations and language in a way that makes them incredibly relevant to the present day. I’m not certain that they’ll age as well as others as they are really at the pulse of where conversations in politics and society are right now – and hopefully we will be able to move on in a positive direction from here. Though, considering how relevant Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale still is decades later, that may just be wishful thinking on my part.

I found The Shadow Cabinet was another step up from Her Majesty’s Royal Coven and loved my reading experience for the most part. This is especially interesting for Grimdark Magazine readers as it follows a main character who is ostensibly a villain – hiding her identity from her friends and loved ones, and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her goals. In this story, there are few characters who wouldn’t be considered morally flawed, and more than anything else, the ends always justify the means of getting there. It is a neon-coloured splash of Grimdark colour in a world that we often consider grey-scale – it is not the usual Grimdark fare but contains all the ingredients to appeal and make for a great read!

Read The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson

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Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne can usually be found with her nose in a book or two. Most of her life revolves around words, be that reading, writing, or editing. You can find more of her ramblings over on www.libridraconis.com, where she also reviews YA books and more lighthearted Fantasy and Science Fiction, as @FLSchwizer on Twitter, and @libri_draconis on Instagram. If you're curious about what she is currently reading, check out www.goodreads.com/libridraconis.