Magic and mayhem clash with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.
The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers maintains the magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman as their Sorcerer Royal and allowing England’s stores of magic to bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…
At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up, an adventure that brings him in contact with Prunella Gentlewoman, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, and sets him on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A Delightful Ride on A Cloud of Magic
This book is delicious. On one hand it's a romantic book of manners that revels in the milieu of colonial Britain's high society-similar to a Jane Austen novel. On the other hand, it ruthlessly wields modernity like a sword, as it dismantles heretofore hallowed notions of patriarchy and white supremacy by centering the story around a manumitted slave and a mysterious mixed-race woman of dubious origin. The protagonists tangle with ruthless assassination attempts from magical bureaucrats, society balls and tea parties, miffed witches from Southeast Asia on diplomatic missions and interlopers from the The Land of Fairy. The book was thoroughly engaging from beginning to end.
I Would Buy It Again
This is a book suitable for a pre-teen, written with a vocabulary suitable to an English major. The story is predictable but well-told. While the outcomes were never in doubt, it was great fun to see how they were achieved. I would buy it again and read it again.