Review: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Series: Sorcerer Royal #1
Also by this author: The True Queen
Published by Ace on September 1st 2015
Source: Ace Roc Stars, Publisher
Also in this series: The True Queen
Magic and mayhem collide with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.
At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—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…
Sorcerer to the Crown was a wonderful escape, a book that really takes you to a different time and place. One that is fraught with etiquette and expectations. Expectations that dictate what one should, and of course what one should not do. Then, to make things more interesting, layer in magic, ghosts, fae and familiars and you get quite a delightful and intriguing read. This world is not perfect. Far from it, actually, and some of the society’s shortcomings were quickly brought to the fore.
Nothing disgusted a thaumaturge so much as a witch. Shameless, impudent, meddling females.
One of the things that captured my attention about this book immediately was the disregard of women with magical abilities. See in this fictional version of a historic England, women are seen as frail, dainty things that couldn’t possibly be able to summon the strength to not only wield, but also control any sort of magic. So, when innate power manifests itself in the “weaker sex”, these girls are taught to suppress it, they are “cursed” with this unwanted magic that must be a danger to their fragile bodies (as well as those around them). Women from other lands that do practice magic are called witches, in quite a derogatory way. So, seeing this blatant sexism so rampant among England’s magicians, I couldn’t help but expect a strong female character to emerge that I could root for, one with the potential to fly in the face of suppressive tradition. Enter Prunella, who couldn’t be more perfect for the role. I love Prunella, she finds a way to have a blatant disregard of propriety with a style that still feels quite proper. Prunella
You rejoice in such a number of enemies it would be difficult to trace this delightful confection to any one of them.
This prejudice was not just limited to females, but also to people of color, as even after attaining the position of Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias is subjected to discrimination, people feeling he does not deserve his high position. He is grateful for the opportunities he has, freed from a life of slavery and adopted and raised by the previous Sorcerer Royal. But that doesn’t mean he feels he fits in or is accepted. He is quite aware of his precarious position and that many would love to see him fail. Magic in England has become a thing many feel should be preserved for just rich white gentlemen. He and Prunella are both outsiders in this world they have grown up in, neither ever feeling like they are able to suceeded by just meeting standards that would be sufficient for others. They both have to prove themselves, and go beyond what could be expected.
England’s magical stores are dying, and Zacharias is determined to find a way to make things right. With an unexpected, and honestly a bit unwelcome, journey to visit a school for girls with magical abilities (a school that teaches them to not use their magic), he encounters Prunella. A series of unlikely events set the stage for both these characters to take courses they could never imagined. It almost feels like perhaps something else was at work to make everything fall in line. Perhaps there was, since there is magic after all.
I will absolutely read the next installment to this, and am really looking forward to it. The style was fun, easy to read and just overall a refreshing change of pace for me. Definitely recommend.