Zen Cho’s Sorcerer Royal series is a dynamic fantasy world set in regency-era London full of political machinations, English sensibilities, and dragons! To set the stage: mysterious circumstances have led Zacarias Wythe to be named Sorcerer Royal (the magical head of state) of England’s Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers. However, he has inherited a whole slew of issues, as England’s magical essence seems to be evaporating; the annoying ghost of his adopted father is advising him; and mysterious assassination attempts keep thwarting his plans.
As a formerly enslaved Black man, Zacarias is also invariably fighting oppression and to prove himself to magicians with power and privilege. However, he, like all Englishmen in this fantasy world, believes women lack the mental capacity to practice magic. That is until he meets, in this reader’s opinion, one of fantasy’s best witches, Prunella Gentleman. Prunella, a determined, funny, and super badass witch, is a woman of Indian descent who was orphaned as a child. Like Zacarias she is fighting to prove herself and for her place in the world of English magic.
Cho’s writing is light and accessible, weaving together a nuanced fantasy world that does not ignore issues of equity, colonialism, and gender equality in places of power. With humor and grace, Cho introduces loveable and memorable characters that provide the reader with a thought-provoking, well-paced ride. The second installment is as good as the first, taking a different look at this world and focusing on a friendship between witches that can’t be broken. I am eagerly awaiting Cho’s third book in the series.
December’s Indy Book Club theme is fantasy novels. To find more book recommendations on this theme, visit independent.com/indybookclub.
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