Strong world-building and impressive character development make Lady of Magick by Sylvia Izzo Hunter stand out. The book is set in an alternate Regency Britain where magic has been an active force in shaping history. Sophie Marshall and her husband Gray are invited to attend as student and guest lecturer in a northern university, they jump at the chance, only to find themselves enmeshed in complex magical and political maneuverings that put themselves and their kingdom in danger.
The world of Lady of Magick is roughly Regency England—roughly, and mostly for the sake of some categorization. Hunter takes into account the effect active magical practice would have on history, so the Britain she portrays has different languages, different boundaries, markedly different religious practices, and is not, actually, a regency as there is a very alive and fit king on the throne. So there are house calls, carriages, and some familiar notions of propriety, but much else is new, and these differences go right to the core of the novel. The tensions and troubles would not exist had history followed the course we know.
Hunter does an excellent job with characters, not just of major characters but of minor characters as well. Sophie and her family are surrounded by a community. Their lives are active and they are among other people with fully-formed motives and ideas. The plot is very much character and history driven. There is still one point at the end that felt a little too tidily tucked in, but the rest of the book is far too good to spend much time worrying about it.
Lady of Magick is one of those books that makes for great rereading, and, as is often the case, listening adds another layer of interest and delight. It is a pleasure to be read to, and listening made me pay more attention to Jenny and Gwendolen, for example, and the differences between our England and Hunter’s were even more apparent.Julian Elfer is a dramatic narrator, something which can cut both ways: On the one hand, he varies his tone and volume with events, reflecting their urgency, secrecy, or anger. On the other, sometimes his voice drops so low when someone is murmuring that he is hard to hear without turning the volume up. This complicates matters when one is say driving or weeding or doing anything else that leaves ones hands and attention occupied.
The quality of the writing is an easy 5/5; the character development and world-building are exceptional. The occasional difficulties with volume move the audio version down to 4/5; you’ll have to listen while doing something relatively quiet, but you’ll enjoy it then.
The Lady of Magick audiobook is by Audible Studios and was downloaded from Audible. You can order a copy on Amazon.
Pairs well with:
A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Wardby Patricia Wrede
Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Sorcerer to the Crown (A Sorcerer Royal Novel) by Zen Cho—also coming out on September 1, 2015 and reviewed here.