Title: Sorcerer to the Crown
Author: Zen Cho
Publisher: ACE Books
Keywords: sorcerers, magic, POC main characters, regency era
I might go anywhere and do any magic I pleased if I were Peter, not Prunella.
England’s magic is declining. Relations between Faerie and Britain are neutral at best and familiars, creatures of Faerie that agree to serve a Thaumaturge (magicians in fancy England speak) are no longer allowed in the human realm. As a result of their weakness, the society of thaumaturges’ power is deteriorating in the royal court. Add to that, the successor of the late Sorcerer Royal, sorcerer to King and country, is Zacharias, an African. Not only does he have to deal with racism from his fellow thaumaturges and assassination attempts, he must somehow find a way to restore magic to England. Fortunately, the key to solving his problems may come from outside England’s borders and a woman with an aptitude for magic…
If you enjoyed Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, you will most likely enjoy the writing style of this book. I’m one of the few who didn’t enjoy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Regency era dialogue is so…difficult for me to read. The stuffy language, the illusion of etiquette and politeness…ugh. Fortunately, Cho’s dialogue seemed like a mix of regency era and modern which made it much more accessible to me. The characters also made it a huge plus: Zacharias (who I may have a tiny crush on) is charming and Prunella though I don’t like her (a bit too calculating for me at times), I ended up respecting her at the end. Especially at the end.
I suppose the main reason Sorcerer to the Crown received so much buzz was because the setting of the story is told from 2 POC (and a woman POC, good heavens!) and highlights the societal issues of living as one in a time and place where that was… not really the best of circumstances. The fantasy and magic are just a very cool bonus. An African receiving one of the most powerful titles in the country? A woman actually practicing magic and being ridiculously powerful? Inconceivable! Speaking of women in this book, the magical issues of women was frustrating, disturbing (at times) and very, very, relatable to read. Women are not allowed to use magic due to a) wasting their precious abilities by using it for glamours and b) being “too delicate” to handle the stress of conjuring magic. In Mrs. Daubney’s School for Gentlewitches, Mrs. Daubney represses the girls’ magic, not encourage them to use it (not that the girls listen). The school is a place to treat an illness, not an ability that’s lauded were it for the opposite sex. The method in which Mrs. Daubney represses the girls’ magic is probably one of the most disturbing parts of the book. A spell drains the users’ magic (and physical health) and releases it to the atmosphere for everyone else (men) to use. The laws and cultural views of a woman’s body in this book should sound pretty familiar to women today.
To be honest after finishing the book I couldn’t tell if I liked the book or not because throughout the story I kept going into mental rants and yelling at the racism and sexism. But I guess that was the point of this book. Sooo I guess that means I enjoyed it.
Gem Rating: 💎💎💎💎
A good read if you enjoy your historical fantasy with POC protagonists, Faery mythology, wand magic, and a hefty dash of race and gender commentary!
Of course, mature and constructive comments are welcome!