Title: Sorcerer to the Crown
Author: Zen Cho
Series: Sorcerer Royal, #1
Release Date: September 1st 2015
“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…“
“Magic infused the air; her every breath was haloed with green mist. Prunella felt as though she were standing at the brink of a sea of magic, watching a swelling wave gather force before it crashed upon the shore.”
I love it when a book that you haven’t heard a lot about completely surprises you. Zen Cho’s The Sorcerer to the Crown combines magic and historical fiction into a truly entertaining and enjoyable experience. Cho imagines a world where magic freely flows from Fairyland into our realm, but much like any kind of resource, those with power have found a way to regulate its use and keep it from others. In England, those gifted with magical abilities can join the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but only if they are wealthy enough and male. Magic in England has been on the decline for years and no one is sure why. The Sorcerer Royal is under assault in every direction, both literally and figuratively. Determined to discover the reason behind England’s decrease in magic, Zacharias Wythe’s quest for answers puts him in the path of Prunella Gentleman, a young lady with extraordinary magical ability and a secret that may save England from losing all its magic.
Someone like Zacharias Wythe should never have been allowed to become Sorcerer Royal. Born to slaves, Zacharias’ skin color is enough for many to draw their conclusions about him. As a young boy, he was taken in by Sir Stephan Wythe, former Sorcerer Royal before his death. Zacharias has spent his life as an outsider, excelling at magic despite the skepticism from members of the Society. Despite what his detractors may think of him, Zacharias is a proficient sorcerer. Unlike his colleagues, he does not use his power or influence for any sort of personal gain, but is always thinking of how he can help England and her dwindling source of magic. He’s used to relying on himself and not expecting a lot of help from others. His feelings toward his benefactor and his role as Sorcerer Royal are complicated. There’s affection and gratefulness, but he has also suffered a great deal because of prejudice. I loved that this historical fantasy addressed issues of racism. Often times these books focus on white characters and we get an incomplete version of the time when slavery and colonialism played key roles in how the world operated.
Prunella Gentleman is a character I immediately took to. She’s bright, cheeky, and isn’t one to back down. At Mrs. Daubeney’s School for Gentlewitches, Prunella has taken on many roles. Her father passed away when she was younger and she’s been under the care of Mrs. Daubeney. Mrs. Daubeney was familiar with Prunella’s father, who spent a considerable time in India where he met Prunella’s mother, but save for his name, Prunella knows nothing substantial about either of them. Many do not know what to make of the young lady, who’s brown skin and features speak of foreign origin, but who speaks as well as any English girl. In England, women are not allowed to practice magic, so instead they are taught to suppress their talents. Still, in a school full of magically-inclined young ladies a hex or two is known to be thrown. Unlike Zacharias, Prunella is prone to act before thinking. She is resourceful and strong-willed, but undeniably reckless. Magic has always been a part of who she is, but more than anything, she wishes for some sort of security in her life. In Zacharias, she finds an unlikely friend who understand the misgivings that come with being a part of a world that never wholly accepts you.
Cho’s writing made me fall immediately into this world. I loved how Cho combined magic and politics, showing that power and prejudice can have a huge influence on people’s views of the world. Sorcerer to the Crown is full of complex characters that are easy to fall in love with, an intricate world that addresses both racism and sexism, and is surprisingly amusing on top of all of this.