Review: So I was lucky enough to have been working at Barnes & Noble at the time when the ARC had come in for the store. Read the back and the little letter that comes with most ARCs and yep, of course I had to snatch it up. I had always planned to have written and posted this review way before the book was officially published/released, to help hype it up more, but alas, real life got in the way and it’s now a new year, haha. But here is my review and thank you to the publishers for providing my store (and me) for a free copy to read and review~!
This story alternates between Zacharias, the newly appointed Royal Sorcerer, and Prunella, a maid for a gentle witch’s boarding house. We learn that Zacharias is a freed slave, and no one’s quite happy at his sudden and mysterious appointment. We also learn, that magic’s disappearing and he’s setting out to figure out the how and why, all the while dealing with not quite so polite society and politics. In Regency era England, only gentlemen can/are allowed to perform magic. It’s believed that only through learned males, can magic be ruled. They seem to ignore ‘kitchen magic’ and domestic charms that housewives and maids seem to do as ‘real magic’ which is pretty interesting and on par to the era, and even nowadays.
And so that train of thought leads us to Prunella, who’s of Indian descent, and her magic abilities is a bit akin to Harry Potter’s in the first couple of books. A bit untamed and powerful at the wrong moments. She’s raised in a boarding house that upper class girls who have a bit too much magic ability are sent to so that they can learn to control/defuse it, as it’s not proper for a lady to do.
There are of course other storylines happening that weave both protagonists together, but I shall leave that up to when you guys read it. What I really enjoyed about this novel was how refreshing the Regency style writing was. If you’ve ever read Regency in the past, you’ll know what I mean. If this is your first time reading any from that age, this is a great introductory. It’s not too stuffy or laden with all the tropes of that time and writing, and I just love how it parallels similar problems among society that still go on today, though of course not with regards to how to use magic.
There is the trope of a stuffy by the book male protagonist, and more of a free/wild-spirit type female protagonist, but it doesn’t seem as ‘trope-ish’ to me, and the author was able to breathe new life into those archetypes and really make it their own. The reasoning for why Zacharias and Prunella are the way they are’s pretty unique and makes sense in this world.
Speaking of the world, I love how while set in Regency England, the entire plot nor influences are all centered there. We get glimpses of other cultures and the people from those cultures, not all relegated to being the help either. All of the supporting characters we see are pretty strong and independent in their own right, none feeling as filler or just to move the plot along.
I do have to admit, the pacing was a bit too slow in the beginning, and I was always itching to get on with it, and then it seemed to come together all at once like an action flick but without the build up of it being an action type of story. Granted, most Regency stories I’ve read tend to be the same way, but I figured with the inclusion of magic and fairy folk, we’d get something a little different in that regard. But that’s a minor quibble.
Overall, this was a fantastic and fun read. I laughed and wondered what the heck was going on to poor Zacharias and what kind of mischief Prunella would get herself into. And of course hope that together, they’ll be able to break through the barriers that stop people like them to find out their true worth in the world. I honestly can’t wait for the next book in the series~!
Cover: The ARC copy sadly did not have a proper cover, so I was pleasantly surprised when the cover did finally get revealed shortly before it was released. I’m a bit surprised about it not having a fully illustrated cover. It certainly would have been nice, but I wonder if part of the reason was to not fully disclose that the two main characters are people of color. I do like the red cover cause it does give a sense of mystery of the book, and does hint to some of the story elements, with the Asian dragon and the small(ish) box. It’s brightly textured and to the point. Certainly not the worst cover I’ve ever seen, but I do hope maybe in future printings we’ll get something better.
Check it out on GoodReads Here!