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Sorcerer to the Crown
Sorcerer Royal #1
by Zen Cho
ACE books; 371pp; $15
Published: July 2016

What a wonderful leap into a fantasy world: a blend of the English Regency and well, a wizarding world.  Ms. Cho has created the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers which maintains the magic within the King’s land. But the magic is not being replenished by its connection to Fairyland as it has been for ages.  The Royal Sorcerer needs to find the cause or the wizarding world will have no magic…

Zacharias Wythe has just become the new Sorcerer on the death of his mentor Sir Stephen Wythe; the generous man and his wife raised Zacharias for the age of six when he was rescued from a slave ship. Zacharias himself is very kind and low-key. He is extremely talented as a sorcerer. But the rest of the society is not thrilled the Sorcerer’s Staff picked him to be the next Sorcerer Royal. After all, he is African. As the Sorcerer Royal, he is requested to go visit a school for girls, young witches. Women in this society are not trained in magic…heaven forfend! This of course doesn’t apply to little magics, to keep food warm, to reattach buttons, fix make-up and flounces, etc.

Zacharias feels that needs to change because he believes women are just as capable of magic as men and more importantly should be trained. At Mrs. Daubeney’s School for Gentlewitches, he meets the extremely talented Prunella Gentleman. Prunella was left to Mrs. Daubeney care when her father stumbled into the headmistress’ life with little Prunella. Shortly thereafter he committed suicide by drowning. Little Prunella shows a lot of talent, and Mrs. Daubeney, aware of another young girl with magical abilities, decides to start a school to help restrain the magical talents of girls who are gifted with talent so they won’t be ostracized from society. Once Prunella finishes the curriculum at the school, she remains there, helping Mrs. Daubeney with the younger girls.

Mrs. Daubeney, completely flustered by the upcoming visit, though hopeful the Sorcerer’s appearance will give her enough cachet to establish an even bigger school, tells Prunella to even clean the attics (where no one ever goes) but she is just certain with her luck, the Royal Sorcerer will want to see them. Prunella does, and finds an old battered suitcase belonging to her father. In this suitcase, among a few odds and ends, Prunella finds seven aquamarine stones she is certain are eggs of familiars (possibly wyverns, griffins or dragons). The magicians of England have had no familiars for ages. Sir Stephen was the last one, and because his disappeared, the wizarding world is certain Zacharias is responsible not only for Sir Stephen’s death, but the death of his familiar, Leofric. Things, of course, are not what they seem.

And Prunella, realizing she will get nowhere at the pokey school out in the countryside, decides to run away.  She waits at the inn Zacharias is staying at, because he will be returning to London where she is certain to be able to come grips with her magical abilities. Zacharias is not thrilled to have her join him on his return journey (just not the thing you know, an unaccompanied young female after all). But he relents. And the two’s adventures begin.

And everything in the wizarding world is about to go end over tea kettle.

This is just a delightful entertaining story. Really different and Zacharias personality is quite against type—despite being the Sorcerer Royal and extremely talented and powerful, he also rather shy and deprecating in his behavior. And Prunella, a bit of a hellion, is good foil for his quiet power.

This is a charmer. ~~  Sue Martin

For other titles by Zen Cho click here

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