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Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown

ChoWhat a treat Cho’s first novel is! It reads as a delightful story, yet is full of truths of history, politics, social structure, and race and gender discrimination.

The setting is Regency England. While many citizens have some degree of magical powers, the nation’s supply of magic is declining. Following the death of the Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias’ guardian and mentor, Zacharias, a young freed slave and a proficient magician, has earned the staff that only the head of The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers is able to use. He befriends Prunella, a young biracial Indian woman with exceptional magical powers; but, in England, women are not permitted to practice magic.  Zacharias struggles to continue his responsibility of serving his country using magic. He travels to Fairyland to find the source of the loss of the supply of magic.  He combats jealousy within the Royal Society and the actions of a variety of magical demonic creatures.

The novel is full of interesting and compelling characters. There are true friends and mortal enemies. There are fairies, dragons, familiars, mysterious orbs and stones, flying magic transport clouds. The story is a blend of historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, magic, and romance. It is well structured, and fast paced.  There is mystery, danger, suspense, but also wit and humor.

Cho is an award winning short story writer; this novel is the first in a planned trilogy. I am eager to know what these characters will do next and how England and the world will prosper through magic. Meanwhile, if you want to read another excellent novel with similarities in setting, although differences in tone, try Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

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