Book Review: Sorcerer to the Crown

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.

  1. “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.
  2. 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.

Book Review: Written in Red by Anne Bishop

cover image for Written in Red by Anne BishopWritten in Red by Anne Bishop.
2013. Roc. 433 pages.

As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

 

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

I love Urban Fantasy. And Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Trilogy is still one of the best examples of world-building that I have ever read. Bishop is a master of building worlds that deal in interesting ways with gender, race, class, and person-hood. The Black Jewels trilogy focused on violence against women and how dangerous misogyny can be. In Written in Red the first book in a new series, we get new issues  to explore and re-interpret, and think about. Race, land rights, the drug trade.

Of course, there is also magic, vampires, werewolves, assassins, intrigue, and more. Written in Red is fast-paced, with rich, interesting characters, and a mystery that keeps the pages turning.

In Written in Red we are given a world that almost is like our own, but subtlety different. There is technology – cars, computers, etc. But we are also given the “Others” non-human creatures who want access to human technology, and control natural resources (even the weather) there is a lot of tension, and politics.

I loved it and can’t wait to read the next book.

★★★★★