Sorcerer to the Crown
By Zen Cho
Ace, 2015. 384 pgs. Fantasy.
Sorcerer to the Crown was a delightful surprise for me, as it appealed to two seemingly divergent aspects of my nerdery – a love for female driven fantasy and a long-standing interest in Jane Austen’s England. Set in the Regency Era, the book first introduces Zacharias Wythe, a freed slave who has managed to become England’s Sorcerer Royal. He stands as Britain’s most influential magician, but a national shortage of magic, tense relations with other magical world leaders, racial prejudice, and rumors that Zacharias murdered the previous Sorcerer Royal combine to endanger his position.
The novel then switches to the perspective of Prunella Gentleman, the daughter of an English magician and an unknown Indian woman. She lives at a school where well-bred young ladies learn to subdue their supernatural abilities. Convention forbids these "gentlewitches" from practicing magic, as their weak frames could never withstand sustained magical effort. When Zacharias visits the school and witnesses both Prunella’s immense talent and the dangerous methods of suppression used there, he begins to question the longstanding ban.
Zen Cho’s debut is one of my favorite reads from 2015, and I found her fantasy re-imagining of Regency England fresh and entertaining. It was especially interesting to see how magical ability leveled the social playing field for Prunella and Zacharias, two individuals who would have been otherwise rejected in British society. Cho’s writing was witty, her characters were lovable, her exploration of race and gender was intriguing, and her magical world was fully developed. I’m definitely a fan, and I look forward to future additions to the Sorcerer Royal series.