Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho

Note: I received an e-galley of Sorcerer to the Crown from the publisher for review consideration.

Some brilliant person described this book on Twitter a while ago as a postcolonial Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and I have been all about it ever since. Zen Cho’s debut novel tells the story of Zacharias Wythe, the first ever black Sorcerer to the Crown.

Suspected of involvement in the death of his predecessor, Zacharias becomes enmeshed in a political conflict among magical parties in (what is not yet) Malaysia, fights for his position against an interloper magician recently returned from the realm of Faerie, and tries to sort out what to do about Prunella Gentleman, whose obvious magical abilities make it difficult for Zacharias to uphold the tradition that ladies mustn’t do magic. (Their frail constitutions!)

This book is a damn delight. There’s nothing not awesome about it. If the characters are a little underdeveloped, well, hell, it’s a first novel. And in any case, the sheer delightfulness of the prose and the story, which are as decorous and amusing as a Georgette Heyer novel’s, more than make up for it. The diversity of characters in a book set in Regency England is also incredibly refreshing. As Aarti noted in her excellent review,

THIS IS WHY DIVERSITY IN PUBLISHING IS SO IMPORTANT. How many people would think to combine Indian history with Malaysian folklore, add a healthy dollop of English Faerie, and then make light but awesome references to equal rights for women and people of color?

Just as wonderful is the book’s feminism. The main character is a guy, but Zen Cho has made him something of a Trojan horse. The deeper you go into this story, the more it becomes clear that it’s actually all about the women. This isn’t rare in the fantasy I read, but it’s marvelous to see, in a book set during Historical White Male Timez, how the story can be deeper and funnier and sadder and better by making it about characters other than the default white guys.

All this makes it sound like Sorcerer to the Crown is all ideology and no fun, and nothing could be further from the truth. It’s all fun, a total confection that I was enjoying from the first page and regretted having to leave behind at the last.

An extremely on-brand links round-up

Oh, have I mentioned I’m excited about Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown? WELL I AM. Here’s Zen Cho on writing three novels and throwing two of them out.

Eliding the horrors of American slavery.

The development of American English and the new London dialect that’s replacing Cockney.

Literary blind spots from famous authors.

Writing letters to trees.

“I don’t see gender/color/difference” is bullshit, and let’s not ever forget it.

An appreciation of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, which recently (sob!) ended its run.

What women write about when we write about the apocalypse.

This article about Auroville is shocking because this lady apparently found a liquor store in Pondy. HOW DID YOU FIND A LIQUOR STORE IN SOUTHEAST INDIA MADAM. Whiskey Jenny and I yearned and yearned to find a liquor store while we were in India but we ALWAYS FAILED.


The moral, for movie execs, of this Grantland story about the guy who breaks the superhero news stories is probably “Your coat check girl thinks you’re an asshole.”

Starlee Kine launches an investigation to discover Jake Gyllenhaal’s height, and the resulting podcast may actually be the teleological cause of the internet’s invention.

What cultural osmosis has taught non-Harry-Potter-readers about the Harry Potter books. Oh and since I’m in, the illustrated edition of Harry Potter is going to include this and you should get pumped.

I mentioned Sandra Bland in my last links round-up, and the whole story has been making me sad this whole past fortnight. Jamilah Lemieux and Roxane Gay both wrote about it. And since I drafted this post earlier in the week, Sandra Bland has become last week’s thing, and we’re doing Sam Dubose now, and it just never goddamn ends.