Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: January 21 to February 3, 2019
Location: Newark Liberty International Airport
2.5 stars, rounding up because this is not a bad book, far from it actually. It’s just not right for me.
I don’t want to be unduly harsh, but I do have to be honest. So here goes.
It’s a complete surprise to me that, of all the books I struggled to read last month, this one was the hardest to get through. If this had not been a buddy read, I’m pretty sure it would have been my first DNF of the year.
Not because it’s a difficult read or there were issues with the writing or anything like that–everything about it is fine actually. It was a struggle to get through simply because I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and was bored for most of the read. So bored in fact that, when I had to take a trip right at the moment the climax happened, I didn’t even want to take the book out of town with me.
I think what it boils down to is that I felt the story, while having potential to be something great, was rather uninteresting for a historical fantasy about magic and colonialism. The most interesting thing about it is that it’s told from the perspectives of two characters who were most impacted by the British Empire’s colonial rule. This should have been the thing to reach out and pull me into the story, but that didn’t happen.
However, the subtle and blatant displays of classism and racism faced by the main characters, one a young man and former slave of African descent and the other a biracial orphaned young woman, were well done. This was the strength of the book; everything else, like the magic and the magical society and the fae and the dragons, was mostly filler.
Something like this book should have been right up my alley though since I loved other books that were written in the same vein, all released fairly recently:
The Ghost Bride (short note on Goodreads)
The Golem and the Jinni
A Natural History of Dragons (short note on Goodreads)
His Majesty’s Dragon
The Magpie Lord (short note on Goodreads)
Unfortunately, Sorcerer to the Crown didn’t strike a chord with me.
That aside, I must point out that there were quite a few nuanced, heartfelt moments in which slavery was touched upon by the main characters. This is the one that stands out the most to me and that I thought was very well portrayed.
A fine line appeared between Prunella’s eyebrows. “Did not Sir Stephen purchase your parents as well?”
“No,” said Zacharias. “Presumably he did not discern the same potential [for magic] in them.”
The statement brought up the old anger and confusion, followed by the accustomed guilt, that he should be so ungrateful as to resent the man who had rescued him from bondage. And yet he did resent Sir Stephen, even now.
“I don’t see why you feel obliged to him at all,” said Prunella. “What right had he to part you from your parents when you were so young?”
Her words seemed to echo Zacharias’s own thoughts, thoughts he had suppressed many a time, striving to feel the unclouded gratitude expected of him. What might his life have been, with a father and mother? It could not have cost Sir Stephen very much to purchase them as well—certainly not enough to strain his ample resources. How could his benevolence have extended so far as to move him to free Zacharias, but no further?
But it had been impossible to ask these questions of Sir Stephen or Lady Wythe, whose affection could not be doubted. That Zacharias’s own love for them was leavened with anger was best left unsaid; he tried not to know it himself.
“Very probably I would have been separated from my parents in any event,” he said. “What assurance can I feel that my parents were not in time separated from each other, against their will, and they powerless to prevent it?”
The answers to these questions were too painful to pursue to their conclusion, even in thought. They had only ever served to increase the complicated unhappiness that lay in wait whenever he thought of his parents.