After that run of (excellent) murder mysteries a few weeks back, I’m trying to make sure there’s a bit of variety in the BotW posts – obviously reading material permitting – and this week we have some magical historical fiction action for a change, with Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, which you may have spotted on the Week in Books lists just a few times. This was mostly because I started reading it and then it got buried in a pile and a bit forgotten about because I didn’t want to make it all battered by putting it in my work bag. But as you can see, in the end I found a way of dealing with it and it made it to work and back a couple of times while I read it and is still in fairly pristine nick…
Sorcerer to the Crown is the story of Zacharias, the new Sorcerer to the British king and his new apprentice, Prunella. Now women are only allowed to be witches, and grudgingly at that, but Prunella seems to have more magic at her untrained fingertips than she knows what to do with and Zacharias thinks she might be able to help him work out what has happened to England’s supply of magic, and at the same time help him reform English Magick in general. Prunella has other plans though. She’s trying to find out where she came from and what the mysterious gift is that her father seems to have left her. On top of all that, Zacharias is a freed slave and despite the fact that he was the adopted son of the previous Sorcerer to the Crown, his skin colour means that the other magicians are disinclined to follow his lead – especially given the rumours surrounding the circumstances of the death of his predecessor. That plus an impulsive and impetuous young girl makes for a fairly explosive combination.
I found the story is a little slow to get going, but once it does there is plenty of adventure and action. I wanted to know a more about the world that we were and how it worked sooner, but a lot of information is held back from the reader for a long time. This makes it very hard for you to get a sense of where you are and to get your bearings early on. Prunella is a great character, full of derring-do and get up and go, but I didn’t find her very likeable. Zacharias is more promising, but because he’s so caught up in rules and problems and on top of that is a bit wet, so I found it a bit hard to find some one to like and root for. But he was definitely on the side of right, and Prunella probably was, so that helped!
I had heard a lot of talk about Sorcerer to the Crown and lots of recommendations from bookish people, but in the end I liked rather that loved it. A sequel is coming I believe and I’ll probably look for that at the library rather than buying it outright. That said, this was still the best book that I read last week, and so for that reason it’s a merited BotW. It’s also inspired me to write a post about magical worlds, so you can expect to see that at some point in the near future, once I’ve done a little bit more reading!
My copy of Sorcerer to the Crown came from Big Green Bookshop, but you should be able get from any good bookshop with a reasonable fiction section. Or you can get it online from Amazon or in Kindle and Kobo.