Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (Sorcerer Royal, #1)
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…
TITLE: Sorcerer to the Crown
AUTHOR: Zen Cho
PUBLISHER: Ace Books
LENGTH: 384 pages
GENRE: Fantasy, Historical
Queer rep not yet checked.
Sorcerer to the Crown is understated and witty, precise in its language, a commentary on colonialism, imperialism, sexism, racism, and power through the lens of an England rife with sorcery but slowly losing its magic. It was a joy to read.
I love how carefully and precisely this book portrays social injustices while ensuring that the dialogue among the point-of-view characters resolves on the side of understanding that they are injustices. In this case, the main two are racial prejudices and discrimination couched as concerns over someone is "English" enough, and gender discrimination portrayed as a blanket ban on women practicing magic due to a concern that such power would "overwhelm" their frail frames. They are not only handled well, but showing at least one of them to be injustices in need of a correction is central to the plot.
The fairies in general and the familiars in particular are shown well, with enough similarity to human thoughts that their motives are understandable, but with a distinctly separate moral sense (not that humans are a monolith in this book) that marks them as wholly different creatures at crucial junctures within the story.
I'll try to keep up with this series, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy.
CW for sexism, racism.