Book, it's not you. It's me. This year I read several books that really helped me pin down what I do and do not enjoy in my reading. This book helped me realize that I really don't enjoy historical fiction. It's just a matter of taste. Cho really embraces regency fiction, and she nails it. Unfortunately, I really don't like regency fiction. Hence, my lack of enthusiasm for this particular book.
HOWEVER! If you like regency stories you should absolutely pick this one up. If you've ever longed for Pride and Prejudice with lots of magic this is your new favorite book. It has lots of properness, charm, blushing (so much blushing...), sorcery, and politics. It also has things to say about gender and race, which you don't often see in a regency story. It's well written, the magic is interesting and well developed, and the characters are enjoyable. Most of the people I know who have read it also insist Cho is very funny (again, it's not you, book, it's me).
So weirdly, despite the fact that I didn't really enjoy this book, it is one that I feel like I can heartily recommend. Cho has really created something special with this one, and I think a lot of people will absolutely fall in love with this one. If you want to read a magical regency romp then snap this one up post-haste. And if you're like me, and could happily never read another book with people blushing at each other at a society party, then give this one a miss.
I almost quit this book. The opening is rife with stuffy old men of a magical society that speak in such a way that I was completely lost half the time. Zacharias, the Sorcerer Royal (kind of a big deal) and leader to these craggy fussbutt magicians, was not my normal hero. He's mild mannered, gentle, and for the first several chapters, a doormat. Muddy language and a milksop character? I didn't know if I had it in me.
Thank goodness I made it to chapter 4.
Once Prunella enters the fray and is introduced in Chapter 4, everything changes for the better. The story forms a plot (why has magic been so stagnant and draining from England?), the characters show some chutzpah, and Zacharias' quietly clever nature is better balanced.
In short, after Chapter 4, it switches from being a snoozefest to a quirky and charming fantasy romp. If I were completely honest, any of the chapters sans Prunella were a struggle but I forgive a great many faults in a book with a strong ending. That's definitely the case here. Wow. I closed the book with a lovely sigh.