ARC Review – Notorious Sorcerer

Hello, everyone! Today I’m sharing my overdue review of Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans. It is available now wherever you get your books!

Since the city of Bezim was shaken half into the sea by a magical earthquake, the Inquisitors have policed alchemy with brutal efficiency. Nothing too powerful, too complicated, too much like real magic is allowed–and the careful science that’s left is kept too expensive for any but the rich and indolent to tinker with. Siyon Velo, a glorified errand boy scraping together lesson money from a little inter-planar fetch and carry, doesn’t qualify.

But when Siyon accidentally commits a public act of impossible magic, he’s catapulted into the limelight. Except the limelight is a bad place to be when the planes themselves start lurching out of alignment, threatening to send the rest of the city into the sea.

Now Siyon, a dockside brat who clawed his way up and proved himself on rooftops with saber in hand, might be Bezim’s only hope. Because if they don’t fix the cascading failures of magic in their plane, the Powers and their armies in the other three will do it for them.

***Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I was drawn to this book by its cover and decided to pick it up because of the intriguing blurb and the promise of a bi male main character. I’m happy to report that it didn’t disappoint! This was an intensely paced ride filled with magic, mayhem, and multi-planar hi-jinks.

At the start, it was all a bit confusing. There were tons of different titles and names that all seemed similar, and I had some difficulty in sorting it all out. The story didn’t really take the time to explain the groups or classes of people in this society, and it took me approximately a quarter of the book to grasp a basic understanding of them and their ongoing conflicts. Maybe a list with explanations at the beginning of the book might have helped me settle into the story a little easier? I don’t know. Regardless, I figured it all out eventually and even somewhat enjoyed the puzzle. Once everything fell into place, I became enamored by it all and found the world to be quite fascinating.

I loved the magic system. I’m quite the nerd, and the scientific nature of the magic was so much fun to read. The orderly, regimented system was also the perfect backdrop for someone to come in and shake it all up at its core, which is exactly what the main character does. If you like stories about the underdog overturning years of dogma while creating a kerfuffle among curmudgeonly scientists, you’ll probably enjoy this story. I also enjoyed the exploration of different planes, and each of them was fascinating to visit with different ecology and inhabitants. I hope we get to see more of them in future installments of this series.

The culture of Bezim was also really interesting in the way it highlighted the effects of a massive disaster on the society while also incorporating elements related to class struggle and policing. The main character comes from an extremely humble background as a fisherman, and he has been trying to hustle his way into becoming an alchemist. He hits many of the roadblocks that poor people often face in the real world, namely never having enough money to pursue the opportunities and education that could help him reach his dream. To make matters even more difficult, alchemy is technically illegal (unless you are rich) because of the disaster it caused, which leads to near constant harassment from the police (aptly named Inquisitors). It was an interesting juxtaposition to see his viewpoint alongside that of his rich benefactors and to witness how different their lives were. There was also plenty of great queer rep, which is always a plus, and I liked how it was normalized in the story.

I struggled with connecting to some of the characters because the fast pace left little down time to truly get to know them well. There were two characters, however, that I really loved to read. First, I adored the main character, Siyon. He was witty and charming, and I found it impossible to avoid rooting for him. Much of the book focuses on him and his underdog story of rising from his humble beginnings to save the city from impending doom via magical means. It was compelling to follow his struggles, and he was definitely put through a lot. My favorite thing about his story was that he came to believe in himself and stopped doubting his ability. I also really enjoyed the story of Anahid. Her viewpoint gave an intimate window into the lives of the upper class of Bezim, both the privilege and the unique hardships. I’m not sure what it was about her story, but she felt very real to me. She was quiet and often in the background, and her story was a subtle piece of the larger narrative. However, it stood out to me, and I found great hope in her discovering how to build something in her life that makes her happy, even something as simple as a card game.

The romance was probably my biggest disappointment. I liked it, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it. I never really got a good sense of Izmirlian as a person, either, which made it hard for me to enjoy watching his relationship with Siyon unfold. I think I would have preferred a little less running around and a little more character and relationship development. However, I did enjoy all the political conspiracy and magical elements too. So, maybe something just had to give, and the romance got the short end.

Overall, this was a great read. I enjoyed the frenetic nature of all the shenanigans, and the world was a fascinating one. I definitely recommend it if you enjoy fantasy and/or books with great bi male rep, which is perfect since this week is Bi Visibility Week. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars!

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