Author: Zen Cho
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Macmillan
The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry.
The new Sorcerer Royal sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…
The Complete Goodreads Blurb:
” The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…
At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, 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…”
“I should advise you not to stop there, but set fire to his house, too, and sell his children to pirates. That is the only way he will learn” – Mak Genggang.
This book has been on my TBR list for quite some time (over half a year at least), and I am so glad that I’ve had the time (correction; made the time… cuz procrastination and all that) to read it!
The moment I received the book after I had ordered it online, I was utterly amazed by the stunning cover. The black and gold definitely impressed me, and I couldn’t wait to start.
The beautiful cover, however, was forgotten the moment I opened the book.
I don’t know why, but for some reason I had expected a different way of writing. The writing really reminded me of Jane Austen, but after a couple of pages the style got to me, and I genuinely started to like the way it supported the world and story.
After I got used to the the use of the language, it became hilarious. Not persuaded yet? Read this quote:
“Her bulk seemed to fill the world, blocking out the horizon and casting a shadow over the magicians huddled on the wall. The enchantment appeared to encompass everything upon her person, for as she grew, so did the fronds of seaweed draped over her, and the pretty amber pendant on her breast expanded till it was itself the height and breadth of a grown man.
“Midsommer!” roared Lord Burrow. “Look to your wife!”
“He can hardly miss her”, remarked Prunella.”
There was not that much detail spend on world building, but more on society building (can that even be a thing? I think so). It was clear from the start that the society was a patriarchal one. Magic was only meant for men, and it was more acceptable for them to name a non-Englishman (one who should have been a slave had he not been taken back to England by Sir Stephen) a sorcerer, than to teach magic to women. Eventually, the very basis of the society in this book would be shaken in more than one way at the end of the book.
Reading this book was simply heaven. It didn’t bother me that there was not that much time spend on the world-building (probably because of the writing style), and it also didn’t bother me that things seemed to progress pretty slowly in the first couple of chapters. There were times when I would have liked some more detail, about the fairy world for instance, but other than that it was a wonderful read.
I must confess, had the book been written differently (in a more modern style), I would have written a couple of hundred words about everything that I found lacking. But the style fitted the story, and the amount of detail (or lack thereof?) fitted the style in return. Yes, the characters weren’t that well formed, and there was not that much character development as we might see in other novels, but they were already complicated enough to begin with. On the other hand, there definitely were developments, and when something was revealed in the story it resulted in a shock.
On a historical note, I really like the role of the Royal Society, the image of Parliament , and most of all; the rules of society that are presented in that book.
I couldn’t help to be anything but over the moon when Mak Genggang (a foreign sorceress with an amazing sense of humour), helped Prunella to get to her full potential. Some of the things that she says are in complete contrast with the rules of the patriarchal society during the Regency- era.
“Why, all the greatest magic comes down to blood,” said Mak Genggang. “And who knows blood better than a woman?”
What else can I possibly say. I was sceptic at first, but was hooked after getting through the first couple of chapters. I am so glad that I’ve been able to read this amazing read, and I surely recommend it to those who are into fantasy, magic, and don’t mind the Jane Austen language. Since I’m unwilling to spoil to much of this work for you, I’ll stop here, and end this review with my rating of 4.5 stars.