The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers has as its job the maintaining of magic within King George III’s domain, but lately things haven’t been going so well. Magic seems to be draining out of the kingdom, for one thing, a former slave and possible murderer has been made the Sorcerer Royal, and relations with Fairyland are so fraught that English magicians have been unable to secure familiars to enhance their powers. Full of desperate situations, lively banter, entertaining Regency manners, a Georgette Heyer-like romance, and magic most amazing, Sorcerer to the Crown kept me entertained from start to finish.
Because of my extreme love for Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I’d snap up any novel concerning an association of British magicians struggling to maintain magic during the Napoleonic wars era, but while Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown is no Strange/Norrell knock-off–her writing isn’t as deep and beautiful for one thing, and she uses a P.G.Wodehouse type of humor–it’s as if Clarke’s book had caused Cho to ask some very fruitful questions.
Questions like, “If men can have an inborn knack for magic, as Jonathan Strange does, what about females? What would happen to girls growing up with a natural inclination for spells, and what would women do with such a skill?” And, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if a character of African origin held a prestigious, if precarious, position instead of being a servant like Stephen Black? And couldn’t the story be enriched by adding some Asian-based magic?”
Sorcerer to the Crown is the first book in a series, and based on how the story ends (not a cliffhanger, but with things in a very interesting state) I can’t wait to see what happens next.