From Goodreads: “Magic and mayhem collide with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.
At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—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…”
This book frustrated me. While reading, I was generally entertained (and for those that follow my reviews, you know that is important to me.) But there were a few things that kept me from being immersed in the story and truly enjoying it.
First, and most noticeable, is that it seemed too similar to other stories I’ve read in the genre. Throughout, I kept thinking of Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker series. The main female, Cat, has magical abilities and one of the first things we see her do is wrap herself in shadows to be invisible. In Sorcerer to the Crown, Prunella uses a spell for invisibility to get into Zacharias’ chambers. Spiritwalker’s male lead is Andevai who is described as being a man of color. Here, we have Zacharias who is discriminated against because he is a man of color. In both series, the leads try to act like they aren’t in love until something forces them to make a decision. I also felt some similarities to the Bannon & Clare series by Lilith Saintcrow (Emma Bannon is a Prime Sorceress who serves the crown.) Nothing was too obvious but it didn’t feel original and fresh enough when I’ve read so many others in the series. There just wasn’t anything new.
There were missed opportunities with the stories of Pru’s parentage, the relationship between Britain and fairyland, the magical wars between other countries, etc. They weren’t developed enough to have any emotional impact. (I know, I know. These things can be further fleshed out in the rest of the series. My problem is that a novel should stand alone. Not all questions have to be answered but major details like this need to be fleshed out or it seems incomplete. And, I really don’t want to feel like a book is just a setup for a sequel.)
And, we do need to talk about Prunella. While Zacharias was a sympathetic character, I pretty much hated Pru until the end. It’s one thing to write a strong, free-willed female lead. That’s great! But when you make her selfish, careless and unnecessarily impudent, she isn’t likable. Most books need lead characters that don’t cause you to roll your eyes. Pru didn’t pass that test.
Overall, I’ve given this 3-stars as it was entertaining. I only wish it had seemed more unique to earn more stars.
Thank you to Penguin for providing an e-copy of this book as part of their First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.