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…
I am disappointed.
I wanted this book to be more than it was. I loved the diversity. I loved that the most kick-ass characters in this book were women. But man, there was a major problem I just could not get over: the pacing is atrocious.
When I first began reading this book I legitimately wondered what this book was trying to do. Was it a book about race in Society (Cho certainly had plenty to say about that). Or perhaps it was a book about the education of women in Society (another topic of which the author spent a good amount of time on) as opposed to devoting that building the world. The first half of this book was a slog. I only kept pressing on because I made myself. While it did eventually catch on for me, I wouldn’t blame others for giving up on it before it got going. And when it did get going, it picked up steam and picked up steam and them BOOM it was done. Worst still, I feel like the development of the people and the world suffered for it.
Biggest case and point: what does the Sorcerer Royal actually do? I couldn’t tell you. He doesn’t seem to have the ear of the king, he doesn’t seem to preside over any meetings. Is it ceremonial? He’s supposedly the most powerful sorcerer in England but to what end? I guess you can argue it’s a minor point, but when people are trying to kill the protagonist because he is who he is, I feel like it should have played a bigger part in this book. What are the stakes? What do you get from it? If these people regularly have assassination attempts against them, there has to be a reason for it! It just makes me wish he’d spent more time on the world building, especially when we don’t get a ton of development for the hero.
As for Prunella (the comrade of the summary) she goes from untrained to complete powerful and seemingly trained bad-ass in no time flat. I liked it, but it also feels like a cheat. I really, really wish that she had been there from the start so she could have been given more time to grow. She is spunky, she is ruthless in her own way, I liked her. I rooted for her. But her development was just too fast and hard to believe.
Ultimately I wonder, can I really commend a book only because the characters are diverse and the women so strong? No, that would be pandering. And that’s not honest.If you are looking for diversity in your lit, I would still say it’s worth giving a look just because it’s so hard to find. But other than that? I think you can do better.
There are some bright moments here (I really do like the character of Prunella, even if I am side-eying the way her powers grew) but it’s hard to overlook the flaws for me.
Verdict: A reluctant Skip It
Available: September 1