cover image Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown

Zen Cho. Ace, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-425-28337-0

Set in the excruciatingly class-conscious realm of an alternate 19th-century England, Cho’s delightful debut novel skillfully blends fantasy and intrigue with issues of race and gender politics. Zacharias Wythe, the child of enslaved Africans, has spent almost all of his 24 years apprenticing under his English adoptive father, Sir Stephen Wythe, Sorcerer Royal and member of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers. When Sir Stephen dies and Zacharias is reluctantly thrust into power, the Society is outraged at the thought of a black man governing its ilk and chooses to blame Britain’s dwindling magical resources—actually a longtime crisis—on the color of Zacharias’s skin. At Mrs. Daubeney’s School for Gentlewitches, where girls are trained to suppress their magical abilities because they supposedly lack the intelligence to be sorcerers, 19-year-old Prunella Gentlewoman stumbles across a long-forgotten legacy that could be the key to saving Zacharias’s life and restoring Britain’s magic. Cho’s tale knits together a dizzying array of taut story lines populated by complex characters with interesting backstories. Zacharias brings to mind another orphaned young wizard whose combination of grit and melancholy captured readers’ hearts, and ingenious, gutsy Prunella simply shines. Agent: Caitlin Blasdell, Liza Dawson Associates. (Sept.)