Title: Sorcerer to the Crown
Author: Zen Cho
Release Date: September 1, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: B
Thanks to Ace Books for sending this review copy!
The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…
At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…
This book seems tailor-made for me. It has sorcery, and diverse characters who are central to the story rather than pushed to the edges, or worse, nonexistent. It has two engaging main characters, who have differing agendas and are noticeably human beings. They have motivations that are not always nice or pure, but are quite understandable. Author Zen Cho has managed to make her prose sound a lot like a book written in Jane Austen’s day. Although a book with magic at its center doesn’t need to be “historically accurate”, I felt like her depictions of the time felt real. I never expected her heroine, Miss Prunella Gentleman, to do something anachronistic, even though she is feisty and is out to conuer the world.
With all of these great things about Sorcerer to the Crown, I’m not sure why it left me cold. Part of it may have been that I didn’t much like Prunella, and I found it difficult to empathize with her quest. Some of it may have been frustration with the world that Cho built. Her world is full of dangerous magic, in a way that reminds me a bit of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and is still full of the same racism and casual misogyny that exists in our world today. But I applaud the author for not shying away from that; the treatment that Zacharias receives struck me as being real. So I can’t tell why I didn’t like the book, but that doesn’t stop me from still recommending it, in part because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. I haven’t read much like it, so check it out and tell me what you think.
Sorcerer to the Crown is Zen Cho’s first book and is out now.