Do you ever read a book that you really, really want to love, but can’t? Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown is that book for me.
There was a lot that I loved about it: the characters – fully formed, complex, flawed, and clever, the world (most important to me)- alt-England where magic is real, if fading, and fully part of society, and the plot – see fading magic. With more to love, like the discussions of gender and race politics, and class.
I knew from reading the blurb before it was published that this should be a book that I should love, and was eager to read it. But, I didn’t.
Over the last two months I’ve struggled to put into words why I didn’t like it. Why it was a book that I might recommend to some, but would never re-read, and there are a lot of people that I wouldn’t recommend it to. And since no one I know has read it, it has been a solo struggle.
But, I’ve figured it out. There are 2 reasons that the Sorcerer to the Crown wasn’t for me, and might not be for you.
- “Alt-Regency” this book, in additional to the other aspects, is an imagined alternative to the Regency genre. I have never read any regency fiction as the prose is written very densely, and is distracting from the story. Also, boring.
- This book is literature, and reads like an intellectual exercise. A little bit like why I really, really disliked Grossman’s the Magicians, it doesn’t feel like a story, more like a bunch of component parts (I want my book to have ingredients A, B, and C, but not D – make D the opposite!) and less about building a compelling story. And, because of that it feels elitist which turns me off immediately.
tl;dr despite looking on paper like a great addition to the fantasy genre Sorcerer to the Crown is actually literature, which isn’t my cup of tea.