Ow, the racism and misogyny this book opens with is like swimming in the sewer. If you’re not willing to slog through it, or skip the first 50 pages, skip the book. It does get somewhat better. If I hadn’t been promised dragons, I wouldn’t have made it to chapter 2.
A freed negro child is brought before the Mage Society, and they mock Zacharias – until he proves he has enormous magic. But they don’t like him a few pages later, when his mentor dies and Zacharias becomes the leader of the Society. Slanders ensue. And attempted murder. Zacharias wants to get out of town to avoid death, so he agrees to speak to a College for Magical Young Ladies.
But magic is for men, not frail women, and the college basically teaches them how NOT to use magic. It’s horrific. And naturally, the most magical girl of all is Cinderella. Prunella never met her “native” mother. Her father drowned himself. She is now a maid-of-all-sorts in the school. Meeting the Royal Sorcerer is her ticket out.
“But it’s period!” can be countered with, but it’s not complete. There was more than one black man living in England, but we only meet Zach and a foreign sultan looking for British money and guns. There were women with power in the patriarchy, but we only meet The Schoolmarm and foreign witches fighting that sultan. Even Zach’s mentor’s wife is a quiet thing. Person. Thing. Whatever. She has no power at all, not even behind-the-scenes power.
Dragons. The dragon & fairy-critters sub-plot has a startling resolution, but it was barely worth putting up with the rest of shudder-inducing story.
2 stars for the story, one more for the dragons.