Book #60 for 2016
Read Harder Challenge Task: Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia.
Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2016)
This was a fun and magical Regency romp. Think Pride & Prejudice & Wizards. Cho really nailed the slightly twisted take on Jane Austen‘s sly wit, and there’s a healthy dose of P.G. Wodehouse in there, too. I thought the characters were really great, especially Prunella Gentleman and Mak Genggang. The Malaysian influences throughout the book gave the story that extra sparkle, and I never knew quite what to expect next.
The sociopolitical elements of the story were well developed and felt very realistic. Which is saying something when you’re talking about sorcerers and fairies. I sometimes wonder how much was intentional allegory on Cho’s part, but mostly I think I’m happier not knowing.
The magic system was a little difficult to grok at first, but I tried to think of it like music. There are professionals and amateurs, with widely varying abilities in both groups. There are formally trained musicians and those who use only their intuitive gifts to achieve success. There are various instruments, including electronic synthesizers and the human voice. There are various media for the broadcast of live performances and the distribution of recorded performances. And every culture and subculture has a style that is distinctly its own. This world’s magic is much the same.
If I had to complain, maybe I’d say that Zacharias’s reserve made him a little difficult to read, and for a high-ranking sorcerer with a reputation for awe-inspiring talent, he spent a good chunk of the book being a little dimwitted. But there are, naturally, reasons for this. Just keep reading.