Often, when I see a book I haven’t read on a whole bunch of year-end lists, I’ll add it to my stack. Sometimes I’m happy I did, other times, I discover it’s just not for me. That’s what happened with Zen Cho’s “Sorcerer to the Crown” ($26.95, Deckle Edge).
Zacharias Wythe, the adopted son of Royal Sorcerer Stephen Wythe, is already out of place in London’s magical circles because of the color of his skin. It’s a bit of an old boys club, where they believe people of color are not capable of magic and women’s frail bodies can’t withstand its effects.
The problem becomes amplified when Stephen dies mysteriously, and Zacharias inherits the staff of Royal Sorcerer. Though those in the magical community can’t deny that the staff chose Zacharias, they can certainly doubt his abilities and leadership. He’s blamed for the declining amount of magic in England, even though the problem has existed for years before he assumed the role, and some of his rivals even whisper that he murdered his adopted father and mentor to obtain the staff.
To prove himself, Zacharias will have to find a way to open the doors to Fairy again and bring magic back to England.
Reading “Sorcerer to the Crown,” I was reminded of my school days when I was assigned Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” To this day, it remains my least favorite book that I’ve ever read to the finish. Many of my classmates loved the book for the reasons that I disliked it. The societal banter between the characters sounded like so much prattle to me, and I found it interminably boring. It’s a slim volume, but it was all I could do to finish it.
Coming back to Cho’s novel, I could almost call it “Pride and Prejudice with Magic.” She has an interesting setup for a fantasy novel, with the young and doubted sorcerer trying to restore magic to his world. She has the basis for some social commentary with race and gender issues.
There are moments when I really like the book and begin to like Zacharias, the ghost of Stephen and Prunella, but when the characters start those back-and-forth conversations, my eyes start to glaze over, and I completely fall out of the story.
Call me unrefined if you will, but for me, it seems a good story lost possibly in an attempt to be more literary.
I don’t think “Sorcerer to the Crown” is a bad book. Obviously, it’s earned plenty of honors, and there are a lot of people out there who seem to love it. I believe, rather, it’s one of those cases of “just not for me.” If you’re a fan of fantasy and Austen, then I think you’ll probably enjoy it.