chelseagirl: Alice -- Tenniel (Default)
[personal profile] chelseagirl
I'm cross-posting my Goodreads review here because I *really* enjoyed this one, and I think it might interest other folks here.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

My fondest wish is that Susanna Clarke will put out another book in the same universe as Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. My next-fondest was that I'd find something I enjoyed as much. That second wish, at least, has been granted. Sorcerer to the Crown is worthy of the comparison -- it's briefer, fluffier, and not on the grand scale of JS&MN, and it's entirely fair to call it a cross between Clarke and Georgette Heyer, as I've seen written in more than one place. And it's thoroughly enjoyable.

Prunella Gentleman, one of the two protagonists, is in some ways the Jonathan Strange of the text -- her magic is instinctive; she gets bored reading magical theory. At the beginning, she wants nothing more than woman of the upper classes in her time and place want -- to make a good marriage. But the novel doesn't blame her for this -- it's the society she's raised in. And if she can convince this world to overlook her origins as the possibly illegitimate daughter of an English gentleman and an Indian woman, it's a goal she might well succeed at . . . if not for the something far better that awaits her talents and her real heritage.

Zacharias Wythe, the Sorcerer Royal, would prefer to be immured in a library somewhere with his researches, but his guardian, Sir Stephen Wythe, had groomed him as his successor. Zacharias might be the Mr. Norrell of the tale, except that he is young, handsome, and black -- a freed slave whom the Wythe family has raised. But while the Sir Stephen and Lady Wythe love him, the other members of the Thaumaturgical Society hold the usual prejudices of the day.

There are some wonderful secondary characters, and while the plot is somewhat secondary to establishing the world and its inhabitants, the whole thing is delightful. Regency(ish) England is presented as multicultural in the ways it historically *was*, and it's made clear that there is a much larger and more diverse world outside of its borders. Later installments should productively build on what's been established here, and if the stakes are raised, with the Napoleonic Wars at hand, as well as the wry, almost Wodehouse-like fairyland, anything could happen. The next installment will be a hardcover buy for me.
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