The story is set in 1830 in an alternate Britain where the ‘scientific’ principles of magic were discovered sixty years previously, allowing the British to win the American War of Independence. Although Britain is now supreme among the Great Powers, the gulf between rich and poor in the Empire has widened and unrest is growing every day. Master Thomas, the King’s Royal Sorcerer, is ageing and must find a successor to lead the Royal Sorcerers Corps; most magicians can possess only one of the panoply of known magical powers, but Thomas needs to find a new Master of all the powers.
There is only one candidate, one person who has displayed a talent for all the powers since an early age, but has been neither trained nor officially acknowledged. A perfect candidate to be Master Thomas’ apprentice in all ways but one: The Royal College of Sorcerers has never admitted a girl before. But even before Lady Gwendolyn Crichton can begin her training, London is plunged into chaos by a campaign of terrorist attacks co-ordinated by Jack, a powerful and rebellious magician.
The Royal Sorceress will certainly appeal to all fans of steampunk, alternate history and fantasy. As well as the fun of the ‘what-ifs’ delivered by rewriting our past, it delights with an Empire empowered by magic – all the better for being one we can recognise. The plotting and intrigue of Jack and his rebels, roof-top chases and battles of magic all add to the thrills; but it is by no means just a cosy romp, with many of the rebels drawn from the seedy and grimy underworld of London while their establishment targets prey on the weak and defenceless. Yet the price for destroying the social imbalance and sexual inequality that underpin society may be more than anyone can pay.
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