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Sorcerer to the Crown: A Sorcerer Royal Novel

Publisher: Ace Books

Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown places the readers in England, during the time of the Napoleonic Wars, where magic was subject to a great many prejudices, be it racial, gender or affluence. Access to the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers was dependent not only on inherent magic ability, but also to societal status. Foreigners were looked down upon by those in this society, especially in London, itself, and women were generally forbidden to practice magic across the entire kingdom. Why, there were even special schools specifically for teaching girls afflicted with magical ability how to keep their powers locked away, so as not to disgrace themselves.

As Sorcerer to the Crown and head of The Society, Sir Stephen is above reproach and answers to no one and nothing, save what he believes to be best for the country, as a whole. You can imagine, I would suppose, just how odd it was, then, when Zacharias, Sir Stephen's young, black apprentice - this upstart from a foreign land whom The Society had balked at being given formal training in the Thaumaturgic arts to begin with - should be discovered to have succeeded him as Sorcerer Royal upon his death. His mysterious death, I should add. Despite having been present at the gruesome event, the youth would put forth no explanation and Sir Stephen's death was a mystery with inexplicable details, such as the fact that his hand - and his long-lived and trusty familiar, Leofric - were both gone without a trace. These circumstances caused many to vehemently oppose the succession, but the staff had chosen and, as such, Zacharias was, officially, the new Sorcerer Royal.

Alas, Zacharias was in it, indeed, with a great many challenges afore him. Some outright questioned his validity as Sorcerer Royal, while, without an explanation of Sir Stephen's passing, even those most amenable to Zacharias had, at the very least, a shade of wonder as to whether he was responsible for Sir Stephen's demise. Meanwhile, Zacharias finds himself responsible for the entirety of England in a time of war, with a fragile treatise keeping magic from being employed therein, while atmospheric magic levels have dropped quite shockingly low and a new familiar hasn't been seen in all of England for years, following a falling out with the Fairy Queen.

While these should be more than enough for any Sorcerer Royal to contend with, Zacharias chanced upon Prunella, an extremely talented, if a bit wild and pretentious, young woman at a school for gentlewitches. Zacharias finds himself sickened at the severity of the methods used to repress their abilities and decides to push for reform, to allow women to openly practice magic for the good of themselves and others. Prunella is an orphan who knows nothing of her past, but who seeks to escape the school, where she had served as the owner's ward, and to go to London where she might better herself. Zacharias agrees to assist her in this endeavour, reluctantly at first, but finding himself to be more supportive of her as time goes by, taking her on as his apprentice and hoping to use her as living proof of the wisdom of his proposed reform. That is, if he can prevent The Society from being dragged into the war effort, stay ahead of political maneuvering to wrest his title from him, and manage to thwart any attempts on his life in the meantime...

Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown is the first book in her Sorcerer Royal trilogy and is an enthralling read. I found several magic-related terms that I was familiar with, having played D&D, but which some might have to reason out through context, otherwise. Even so, the definitions were not necessarily the same as those in D&D.

I highly recommend Sorcerer to the Crown for fans of fantasy and magic users and I, personally, am looking forward to the next book in the Sorcerer Royal trilogy with great anticipation.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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