Saturday, 20 February 2016

Sorcerer To The Crown

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…

They say don't judge a book by it's cover, but that's literally what I do. I'll be honest, the only reason I picked this book up was the breathtakingly beautiful, glimmering gold cover. After I'd spent too much time admiring it, I felt I had to buy it for fear of looking stranger than I already did. After being introduced to fellow reader/blogger Jess by The Broke And The Bookish's secret santa, we decided to do a buddy read for motivation.

Magic collides with old English regency, and all the facets that brings. Once or twice I was quite shocked by the gender and race issues raised. Make no mistake, this is one of the most authentic representations of 19th century England that I've read in a while, and it doesn't shy away from the prejudices of the time. This is a world where women are shamed into hiding their magic at schools for girls and the lead character Zacharias faces daily prejudice because of the colour of his skin. Despite a few eyebrow raising moments, I loved the authenticity! There's a rich, real world setting with magical underlay. Talk of fairies and unicorns and dragons is casually thrown about alongside mentions of the Battle of Waterloo.

Sorcerer To The Crown is not an easy read, certainly more challenging than my usual YA fantasy and chilck-lit fare. Because it's so authentic, the writing style and dialogue can come across as a bit stilted at times. With the exception of Prunella, you struggle to get a sense of what the characters really feel behind their facade, but Zen Cho does an excellent job of letting you peer behind their masks. The characters were a bit hit and miss for me. Secondary protagonist Prunella is a joy to read! Mysteriously orphaned but in possession of powerful magic, she stows away with Zacharias to London to secure herself a future that doesn't involve playing maid in her stepmother's magic repressing school. She doesn't take no for an answer! This is very much a man's world, and I loved Prunella's determination to puruse her dreams. I wasn't as keen on her insistance on getting married to somebody/anybody to secure her position in high society, but again, this book doesn't shy away from the prejudices of old England. Zacharias is harder to like as a lead character, he feels a bit too uptight to gel with, and we only get flashes of the man beneath all the stiff upper lip. They're fleeting, but most welcome.

I struggled a little in the middle (thank you buddy read motivation!) where everything slowed down and seemed to get bogged down in details and unnecessary political scheming and backstabbing, but the actions and reveals in the last act are great pay off. Zen Cho is a great author, reminding me a little of Philippa Gregory but with a magical twist! Sorcerer To The Crown is an incredibly well written book, historical fiction meets fantasy. It can be a challenging read and I have to confess at times I wasn't really enjoying the book, but I'm glad I persevered to the end.

1 comment:

  1. I love the cover of this book (I am all about shiny gold) it reminds me of the cover for The Tiger and the Wolf another book which I have been cover ogling! You say that there is a 'Secondary protagonist' do we get of the book from her POV?