Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
THE FATE OF ENGLISH MAGIC LIES IN THEIR HANDS
In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England’s first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the eminent Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but a malicious faction seeks to remove him by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, the Society is failing its vital duty – to keep stable the levels of magic within His Majesty’s lands. The Fairy Court is blocking its supply, straining England’s dangerously declining magical stores. And now the government is demanding to use this scarce resource in its war with France.
Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she’s drudged all her life, and a visit by the beleaguered Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries – and she intends to make the most of it.
At his wits’ end, the last thing Zacharias needs is a female magical prodigy! But together, they might just change the nature of sorcery, in Britain and beyond.
The thing that really sold this story to me was the character interactions. I particularly enjoyed how everyone spoke to one another. For someone who, like me, revels in words and language, just hearing the characters speak was a constant delight. The back and forth between the characters is handled with a skilled hand.
Cho does a splendid job of peppering the narrative with insightful social commentary regarding gender politics and race. Subtly done, this never feels heavy handed, and it all adds to the plot and makes perfect sense within the confines of the story. Zacharias and Prunella have both directly experienced injustice merely by fault of their birth. The exploration of their reactions adds nice depth to the plot and makes both of their journeys that much more interesting.
Magical relations between Britain, the Fairy Court and other international powers are also touched upon. Politics forms a key component to the plot and this works well. I’d like to see future books expand upon this and travel out with the confines of Britain. Cho gives us a few tantalising glimpses of life outside Britain and I’d very much like to see this expanded on.
Ooh, did I mention there are some rather wonderful magical beasties to enjoy as well? No? Well, there are. I’ll not spoil any potential plot elements by saying any more than that. They are pretty darn cool though.
Politics and potions make for wonderfully strange bedfellows. Bringing these seemingly disparate elements together in a Regency setting works very well. In turns, magically whimsical one moment, and sharply perceptive the next, I was caught up in the plot immediately. Overall, this debut novel acts as an entertaining beginning and promises further to come. I rather suspect this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Zacharias Wythe and Prunella Gentleman, I certainly hope not.
Sorcerer to the Crown is published by Pan Macmillan is available now.