Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

In the city of Bezim, alchemy is practiced behind closed doors, a pursuit of the elite. Siyon is an outsider, but his skills in gathering alchemic ingredients from other planes make him a living. His dream is to earn enough to buy lessons in formal alchemy, learn enough so he might be permitted to the Summer Club. When he accidentally performs an act of impossible magic, suddenly all eyes are upon him, and not all of them are friendly.

It took me a while to get into this fantasy world, more on that later, but once I got my stride this was a fun adventure through a city troubled by grey-cloaked inquisitors, intent on locking down magic, and trips to other planes of existence.

But in her experience, alchemists were a bit more serious than an unshaven lout drawing with ash on the floor. A bit less serious than a screaming angel blade, though.

The plot revolves around a quest to stabilise the four planes of existence, all the while hiding from the inquisitors, and an impossible commission, that who else but someone who did impossible magic could finally achieve. The cover blurb highlights a queer romance, but that does not dominate the story.

At the start is felt very much like it was going to be angled as an us versus them class struggle, but most the azatani we meet are helpful. Some are just interested in Siyon thanks to his impossible act, but they offer him safe harbour when it is needed.

I liked Anahid, the society wife, and sister to bravi Zagiri. She soon discovered that her marriage wasn’t quite what was advertised, and at first she seems too intent on keeping up appearances. But as she becomes more of a rounded person, I came to like her and was saddened by how her new-found friendship turned out.

Zagiri is chafing against society’s expectations of her as azatani. She was allowed to join the bravi while young, but now she is expected to debut to society. At first I felt like this was to marry her off, but later it seems that’s not the only option. I didn’t really get to know what being azatani was, apart from they hold a privileged position in the city.

Bezim didn’t need proof of the dangers of alchemy. They lived in it.

I felt like I was just expected to know what the social structure was straight from the get go and there were a few holes in the worldbuilding that never seemed filled. I was quite far through before I realised the bravi were groups of street performers. They are referred to as tribes, so I thought they were a race of peoples, but I think anyone could be bravi.

Again, I was not sure of the politics in this story that relies heavily on class systems and legality of magic. It seems there is one leader of the city, and inquisitors act as overreaching police. Alchemy is illegal, but only sometimes, and if you’re azatani it’s OK, until it’s not.

You know what people called the Art, before they started dressing up fancy with their longvests and glassware? Magic.

If you’re fine with skimming over world building in your fantasy, this is easy to enjoy. I just felt like I couldn’t quite get a grasp on it. I would maybe read the second book, as I liked the characters.

Notorious Sorcerer is published by Orbit and will be available in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats from 15th September 2022. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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