Wednesday, November 9, 2016

#RiotReads Sorcerer to the Crown Review

Author: Zen Cho
Publisher: Ace
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fantasy/Speculative Fiction 

  The first #RiotReads pick is what would happen if a dragon and Jane Austen's work had a woke baby together:


Zacharias Wythe is the Sorcerer to the Crown in an alternative England where magic is a profession and the Society of Unatural philosophers is tasked with the maintenance of England's magic supplies. But there is trouble afoot. Napoleon is taking over Europe, something is causing England's magic reserves to dry up, strange magical assassination attempts are occurring, and as the adopted black son of the previous Sorcerer to the Crown who died under mysterious circumstances, Zacharias has his work cut out for him. Things get particularly interesting when he meets Prunella Gentleman when giving a speech at a school for gentlewitches. Prunella is a powerful mix-raced sorceress, a combination that is not particularly favored in a society where magic is not seen as a suitable endeavor for women. 


This book was a thought-provoking joy to read! First of all, it's a regency era comedy of manners but with magic. Basically if Jane Austen's works had a love baby with Gail Carriger's and a dragon this would be the result. I completely see how this might not be for everyone, but this rang so many of my bells.

Before I started reading this book, I scrolled through some of the Goodreads reviews something which I normally don't do but for some reason felt compelled to do so this time. The overall view was that it was a great book, the most common gripe was that it was a bit slow to start but it hooked you if you stuck with it. I would say that there is a point in this, the pacing of the plot seems to meander a bit even though the plot calls for urgency, whether this is a product of the genre or the author's first novel it's hard to say but it does not detract from the overall readability and engagement of the book.

 One of the reason that this book has gotten a lot of buzz is that it deals with the topic of race and microagressions in an interesting way by placing a black man and a mixed race woman at the center of a narrative that takes place in colonial-era England. Zacharias not only has to deal with all the hi-jinks that come along with the politicking of his post, familiars, fairies and curses, but also with the scorn of some his peers who look to delegitimize his claim to the staff of Sorcerer to the Crown because of his ethnicity.  Overall, although this book has some rough patches (it is a debut) it is funny, witty, thought provoking and a breath of fresh air. 

Zacharias is one of my favorite characters of any book I have read this year and really made me fall in love with the story. Prunella is more of a mixed bag but definitely has her charm and her feminist moments that slay. Can't wait for the next installment of the series!


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