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by Zen Cho

Pub Date: March 12th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-425-28341-7
Publisher: Ace/Berkley

Cho returns to the magical alternate Regency England of Sorcerer to the Crown (2015).

A storm at sea leaves sisters Sakti and Muna washed up on the beach at Janda Baik without their memories and suffering from a curse. The powerful witch Mak Genggang grants the two young women her protection, but their effort to determine who cursed them takes them to England—or at least, it takes Muna; Sakti is lost during the perilous journey through Fairy. Muna takes refuge with Prunella Wythe, Britain’s controversial Sorceress Royal, who has opened up an Academy to teach young women to become magiciennes. Meanwhile, someone has stolen a powerful magical talisman from the Fairy Queen, and she blames England magicians in general and Prunella in particular, threatening to put them all to death if the item is not returned. Muna must find some way back into Fairy to find Sakti and dodge the wrathful Fairy Queen while concealing from Prunella and her fellow instructor, Miss Henrietta Stapleton, that she cannot do magic. It’s not entirely clear why Muna feels she must hide the truth about her magic and her predicament in general other than her (somewhat reasonable, given the societal context) mistrust of the English or the author’s need to inject additional tension into the plot. The title offers perhaps too strong a clue as to the real source of the Queen’s anger as well as the nature of Sakti and Muna’s predicament, but watching the strands of the plot converge and the details play out still offers some surprises and wonderful set pieces. There’s even a sweet dash of romance at the end. As in her previous novel, Cho offers plenty of sharp commentary on the misogyny and colonialism of this magical version of Regency England, in which spells are thrilling and exotic when performed by a witch from the Far East but scandalous when cast by an Englishwoman.

Perhaps not as groundbreaking as the debut but a solid follow-up, nonetheless.