It took me a while to find my feet in this one, but once I did, it was a delightful romp through a fantastical Regency England. In Cho’s world, magic is in the air….or it would be if the Fairy Courts hadn’t plugged up the hole allowing their magic to trickle into England. But someone’s pissed off the Fairy Queen, and it becomes quite the kerfuffle for our titular Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias. On top of Fairy feelings, Zacharais is also fighting deep seated racism since he’s *gasp* African and *double gasp* the son of slaves with no societal connections to his name, which for Regency England amounts to being treated like a piece of furniture at best. The magical society of the late 1790s is blue-blooded to its core, and hell bent on knocking Zacharias out of his position regardless of his powers. Adding to Zacharias already growing list of things that could go badly is Miss Prunella Gentleman, a witch with a mysterious past, who’s got more magic in her pinky than the whole Society of Philosophers combined. Add in the specter of Zacharias’ ward and predecessor following him around giving unsolicited advice, and someone planting assassination attempts wherever he goes, and you’ve got a roiling, fun plot.
Cho’s greatest strength in this book is that she manages the big issues: racism, sexism, classicism, in a way that makes you cringe appropriately, but never feels preachy. They are simply part of the fabric of the society these characters live in, and whether they accept them, work around them, or barrel through them like they don’t exist, it all works in tandem for the time-period. I really appreciated that the only characters’ heads we inhabit are Zacharias and Prunella, both POC, both unwanted in their spaces, and both looking to work through the isms in ways that fit their personalities. I loved them both, and was excited to see that there’s a second book coming out in March!
That all being said, it did take me about 50 pages to get into this story. Cho mimics Austen’s prose in both dialogue and description, and it was a while before I found my footing and realized which character was talking. They all sound a bit the same in the beginning. However, the characters are smart and witty, the dialogue gets fun once Prunella comes on the scene, and this was a fun, lighthearted read despite the heavy issues permeating it.
4 stars for fun.