Stylish and sly, Zen Cho’s debut novel is full of wit and adventure. A dangerously truthful tale of politics, people and magic.

Zen Cho's debut offers adventure, romance and magic against a glittering backdrop of an alternate history Regency England.
Zen Cho’s debut offers adventure, romance and magic against a glittering backdrop of an alternate history Regency England.

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal Novel) by Zen Cho

While I loved the elegant prose and affected manners and mannerisms of an earlier age, so deftly captured by Zen Cho in Sorcerer to the Crown, I can believe that some modern readers will not enjoy it as much. To the modern ear, the book may read as slow to develop, whereas I saw it as a lushly imagined and developed alternate history of Regency era (the Napoleonic Wars) England. Cho displays gently barbed wit to sly purpose in her painting of a magical and socially regimented era into which she effortlessly weaves the politics and struggles of power, be it magical, sexual, racial, or dogmatic. This book definitely isn’t for everyone, but fans of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer will be right at home with the language and setting and will likely enjoy this magical comedy of manners.

Magic is draining from the world, and many blame Zacharias, the newly named Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers. Zacharias is considered a shocking choice by many — a familiar-less free slave! He is very different from his fellow magicians, being an orphan and black, and is an unpopular Royal Sorcerer, but he is determined to make positive, proactive changes to the world of magic during his (he fears, very short) tenure as the most powerful sorcerer in the land. He sets off to the border of Fairyland to investigate the drying up of England’s once profuse stores of magical energy.

Prunella is an orphan, charitably established at a school for girls “troubled” by magic. Women are taught only such magic as applies to household chores and must otherwise suppress their power. Prunella, however, has access to far more power than most. Zacharias’s and Prunella’s adventures bring them together, and they each discover in the other something special indeed.

A tale of adventure, romance, humor, and magic is deftly woven into a comedy of manners and sociopolitical commentary. Regency fans and fans of alternate history/fantasy should love this series opener and be eager for the next installment. I know I am!

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com in return for my honest review.

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