|Book and dragon!|
If Jane Austen were alive and writing Napoleonic urban fantasy, it would be “Sorcerer to the Crown” by Zen Cho. Well-crafted characters move throughout a landscape that is at once magical and very English.
Cho’s story is the adventure/drama/mystery of Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers who is struggling with both his social and magical positions. While a member of the Empire and its foremost magician, he still finds that he as often judged by the color of his skin as his innate abilities. Meanwhile, magical Britain is on the edge of panic as their magic is dwindling, and Zacharias struggles to find a cure, while shouldering the blame. When he meets Prunella Gentleman, a magical woman in a world that looks down on her, it might be more than just chance.
Cho does an excellent job fleshing out a magical Napoleonic-era England, complete with concerns that are both near and abroad. While the pacing flows at a good pace, readers might find themselves frustrated with both the language and dialogue. Readers may want to have their dictionary up-to-date before embarking on this journey. Cho also has a habit of changing point of view in mid-stream to provide additional insight, but this just as often creatures as readers struggle to make sense of the shift.
In “Sorcerer to the Crown”, Cho is able to craft a believable period-world and realistic characters. Although the language and dialogue will cause some readers to struggle, the relationships between Zacharias, Prunella and their world is worth fighting to the end.