When I first heard the description of this book, I immediately thought, “I MUST READ THIS IMMEDIATELY.” And then, when my library was on the slow side ordering it, I gave up and bought it because it sounded like just about the most Maureen-y book ever written.
And reader! IT WAS.
Things this book is about: Regency England. Magic. Mysteries. Dragons and scary fairies. Families. Finding your place and power. Its two main characters are also a former slave who has become the Sorcerer Royal, and a half-Indian orphan who hasn’t been trained in magic because she’s a woman. In short: Yes, yes, all of the yeses.
I truly liked Zacharias and his journey, but to be honest, I spent most of the book going, “PRUNELLA!” I adored Prunella, both her strengths and insecurities. She’s tenacious in a cause, whether it’s her own or someone else’s, but she’s not foolhardy. And I loved the story of her finding her own place and powers.
Because of the details of the setting and worldbuilding, and the fact that it’s Regency + magic, I know that there have been many comparisons to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. And I do understand this–I actually think that it’s very helpful reader’s advisory if applied the right way. But at the same time, I think these comparisons do somewhat distract from the ways in which Sorcerer to the Crown is its own thing. Zen Cho has not simply written JS & MN fanfic; she’s in conversation with it, as well as with the wider Regency tradition. And she is more concerned with the marginalized voices. It’s not at all an accident that this book centers Zacharias and Prunella in a way which JS & MN–for all of its strengths–wouldn’t.
ALSO, this book has Mak Genggang, who is terrifying and awesome and I loved the way she and Prunella interact and everything about both of them is amazing. Don’t get me wrong: I shipped Zacharias and Prunella like anything. But I would not be sad if we were gifted an entire book of Prunella and Mak Geggang fighting crime and exchanging advice. And by “not sad” I mean I would read that book forever.
Finally, I really liked the magic here, which is both systematic enough to please my desire for things that make sense, and chaotic enough to seem real. Cho’s fairies and other non-human characters are scary, but also understandable; they seem like characters in their own right. (I was especially fond of some revelations at the climax of the novel, which obviously I won’t spoil but which were delightful.)
Basically, there are some books that I am simply unable to be even slightly objective about because I love them soooo much. This, in case you haven’t figured it out by all the exclamation points and ALL CAPS, is one of them. If any of what I’ve described sounds remotely like your thing, I highly suggest reading it. Apparently, it’s intended to be a trilogy, to which I say HURRAH!
Book source: personal library
Book information: 2015, Ace Books; adult fantasy but would be an excellent YA crossover