ARC Review: Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans

Book: Notorious Sorcerer

Author: Davinia Evans

Pages: 448

Source: Orbit books

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy, Magic, LGBTQ

Publication Date: September 13, 2022

Goodreads Summary:

In a city filled with dangerous yet heavily regulated alchemical magic, a man from the slums discovers he may be its only hope to survive certain destruction in this wickedly entertaining fantasy. 

Welcome to Bezim, where sword-slinging bravi race through the night and rich and idle alchemists make magic out of mixing and measuring the four planes of reality.

Siyon Velo, Dockside brat turned petty alchemist, scrapes a living hopping between the planes to harvest ingredients for the city’s alchemists. But when Siyon accidentally commits an act of impossible magic, he’s catapulted into the limelight—which is a bad place to be when the planes start lurching out of alignment, threatening to send Bezim into the sea.

It will take a miracle to save the city. Good thing Siyon has pulled off the impossible before. Now he just has to master it.

My Review:

I was given an advanced reader’s copy of Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans by Orbit books in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you Orbit!

Notorious Sorcerer takes place in a city called Bezim, and many things in Bezim – from streetlamps to birth control – rely on alchemy to either work properly or work more efficiently.  So, the fact that alchemy is technically illegal within the city can complicate matters for someone like Siyon Velo.  He is an amateur alchemist working for the bravi tribe called Little Bracken, and he hopes to one day earn enough money selling alchemical ingredients stolen from the other planes to earn himself some lessons in real alchemy.  Siyon has high hopes that he will learn enough to gain entry into the azatani alchemy club called the Summer Club, and perhaps one day, his alchemical prowess will earn him enough money to become azatani himself.

It’s a simple rags-to-riches kind of dream, and Siyon’s latest delve into another plane for materials may have netted him something expensive enough to achieve his goals.  That is, until he is forced to use his alchemy in public to save a fellow bravi’s life.  Hundreds of people witnessed it, and now the inquisitors are after Siyon.  Couple that with the fact that Siyon sells a powerful alchemical material to the ruling prefect’s son which leads to the son’s disappearance and Siyon quickly finds himself hiding in his own city.  The new inquisitor captain will stop at nothing until he sees Siyon poisoned for sorcery, and Siyon must do what he can to return not only the prefect’s son from another plane but to balance the planes themselves before the world is ripped apart.

This story has a lot of action throughout, but that is a very shallow view of the entire book.  The relationships between the characters, the depth and growth of the characters themselves, and the examination of power in a class society are all equally on display in Notorious Sorcerer.

My favorite part of the story was definitely the growth of Siyon and Izmerlian.  Siyon Velo starts out as a cocky, self-assured amateur.  However, the more he is exposed to alchemy, the more he realizes he doesn’t know.  He also learns that many of the so-called alchemists he’s looked up to for years don’t fully understand alchemy or the other planes either.  Siyon has to make mistakes and learn to rely on others to save himself and his city, and I really enjoyed watching him grow into the role he attains by the end of the book.

Part of that growth happens through his relationship with Izmerlian Hesarani.  Izmerlian is a member of the “ruling class” of Bezim known as the azatani.  The azatani are rich due to their trading and exploring prowess, and the tend to stay rich.  As such, many of the rules and laws simply don’t apply to them because they are necessary to keep the economy of Bezim going.  For example, alchemy may be illegal, but when the Summer Club is raided, the azatani are allowed to leave while any foreigners or members of lower classes are dragged away for trials. 

Knowing this, it is natural that when Siyon first meets Izmerlian, they don’t trust each other.  However, they both have something the other needs.  Siyon has performed impossible feats of alchemy which leads Izmerlian to believe Siyon may be the only alchemist that can help him where other alchemists have failed.  Meanwhile, Izmerlian has money, influence, and power to help Siyon both learn what he needs to become a better alchemist and to escape the inquisitors.  What neither of them expects is to come to truly care for each other, and I really hope we see more of their relationship in future installments of the series.

As I mentioned before, Bezim may be a democracy politically, but the city is ruled by the rich.  They are given special treatment, and many of them rarely give a thought to those less fortunate than they are.  This becomes a huge part of the story when inquisitors begin rounding up alchemists all over the city.  Eventually, even the azatani aren’t safe from arrest, but they are still far less likely to be put to death than alchemists throughout the lower classes. 

I enjoyed the message of the bravi tribes joining forces to help smuggle these alchemists out of the city.  The bravi tribes are usually a mix of young people from various social classes and situations, and seeing them join forces to be part of something bigger than themselves was one of my favorite parts of the story.  Zagiri Savani’s role in this was especially nice, and I’d like to see what else she does to shape the future of Bezim in the next book.

This book really explored a lot of interesting themes while still being an excellent story.  Everything from political corruption to failed marriages to learning how to become something bigger than oneself is explored.  The actions and consequences all felt real, and it all felt like it meant something.  Each mistake and setback felt like it mattered, and the characters really learned from them.  I am definitely excited to see where the rest of the series takes us.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I gave Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans five out of five stars.  All of the characters are fleshed out with additional room for growth in future books.  The setting is rich, and the magic system is interesting and unique.  Also, the elements of the story surrounding the class system and democracy are similar enough to the world today to feel realistic.  I personally can’t wait for the next book, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for its announcement!

Have you read this book? What other magical books do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

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