Book Review: Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, Sorcerer Royal #1

In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England's first African Sorcerer Royal. And that's only the first of his problems. He must juggle the conflicting demands of a wayward Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, where a faction schemes to remove him from his position by fair means or foul. He must cope with the Fairy Court refusing to grant Britain the magical resources it needs. And now the British Government is avid to deploy this increasingly scare magic in its war with France. He must also contend with rumors that he murdered his predecessor and guardian, Sir Stephen Wythe. But this task would be easier if Sir Stephen's ghost would just stop following him around. And now he has to deal with something even more outrageous than any of these things: a female magical prodigy.

Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she has drudged all her life, and a visit by the 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.

If there is one theme in books that I really like, it has got to be magic. There are lots of variations on it, the epic sword and sorcery type, the urban fantasy way and Zen Cho does it in the Regency London way. When I first heard about this book I had to think back to the movie "The Prestige". Of course there are no fairies in there and no real magic in that movie. Sorcerer to the Crown is also Zen Cho's debut, just fyi. 
Sorcerer to the Crown picks up with an event that shapes the magicians world of Britian. Freed slave Zacharias Whyte, an black  African  sorcerer travels to London with one goal in mind, to become the Sorcerer Royal.  Being far from the type of sorcerer that fits into the picture of Sorcerer Royal in the regent London he is looked down upon and constantly challenged with every action he undertakes. This is far from a nice way to start your new role in that function. Besides the fact of constantly being challenged and questioned by his peers he is facing problems with the Fairy Court. The Fairy Court is the one force that controls magic. Britain is currently low on magical resources so he has to do his best to convince the Fairies to grant them acces. Acces in terms of Familiars, these little creatures help the magicians to fully unleash their powers. But no familiar has crossed the line into Britain for quite a while now. Time is becoming scarce as there is still that ungoing war with France that Zacharias has to think about. France does seem to have magical resources available. If leading a "nation" on the brink of war isn't enough, other things are happening in Britain as well. The only magic wielders of the nation are men. Women who show aptitude are put into school for Gentlewitches where they learn to simply not use their powers. Here you meet with the second character of the story Prunella Gentleman. (Don't let that last name deceive you) she is very much a women and very powerful at that. Zacharias is despised by what he witnesses in the school for Gentlewitches. So it is time to change that bit, fast, really fast. Zacharias partly saves Prunella as she mostly saves herself with her well lets call it direct attitude. She knows what she is capable of. Prunella is one of those Gentlewitches that you have to approach gently, she holds tremendous power, perhaps even more so than Zacharias. She only need to learn to control it a bit better. Prunella readily changes the game of Zacharias, not only by being a great magician in the making but by the one thing she does. One thing that no one has seen before... You can bet that what Prunella does readily changes everything.

One thing that Zen Cho does marvelously are the characters of Zacharias and Prunella, they each have perfect moments, they are quirky, extravagant and completely stubborn at the same time. The have similiar backgrounds in terms of what has happened to them, they had to battle their own demons and travel on a hard path. The way that Zacharias and Prunella acted was directly in lines with the era that the story played part in. There were some tropes that you normally see but they were acted upon very nicely. Prunella the young girl that wants to break away from the rules and do her own thing was a marvelous thing to read, she undergoes quite the transformation, lets not forget Zacharias who perhaps has an even more difficult task in it all. 

The setting as I have mentioned already is just marvelous. From the first scene that Zen Cho writes right down until the last one there is something magical going on both literally and figuartively. Inspiring a solid regency period takes time. I have read half bodged attempts at it that fail. The lyrical prose of Zen Cho really did it for me. 

In the last year, magic set in more historical urban filled surrounding like: House of Shattered Wings and Jonatahan Stange and Mr. Norrel (which is serialized) made a strong comeback. The competition was and is fierce but with Sorceror to the Crown Zen Cho directly sets a name for herself (and a bar). This first book in the Sorceror Royal series is an action packed, witty and humour filled book that will keep you glued to the pages from start to finish. 


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