Review: A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians

Series: The Shadow Histories: #1

Well that’s fascinating bit of historical fantasy. Take revolutionary era France, introduce various relatively ‘common’ classes of magicians (fire, water, weather, mind control, etc), and see what shakes out. It’s an era of history I’m probably not as familiar with as I should be and, while with the introduction of magic things are slightly different, the events actually shake out more or less the same way (as I looked up later). It’s interesting to read about people such as William Pitt and Maximilien Robespierre … and then read about them again in real history.

Now on the flip side, there’s one problem that always seems to come up with historical fantasy: the time period in question is bloody and there are all sorts of questionable choices being made behind the scenes. If you rewrite history to say ‘because magic’… it’s risky. Take for example the parallel conflicts within the book of real life slavery, contrasted with a supressed commoner class–magical but unable to use their powers. The former was a terrible chunk of human history, but we spend almost all of our time in the book with the latter. It’s interesting and I don’t think it’s a reason not to write/read books like this, but… like I said: risky.

On another downside, there’s a definite pacing issue with this book. There is an awful lot of political maneuvering that, while realistic and based on real history, takes quite a chunk of the book. By the times things really feel like they’re coming together… the book is over. At least there’s a sequel, we’ll have to see how it lands.

Overall, it’s interesting and I enjoyed the theme. This was one of the books I read mostly a chapter a day, which I think actually helps the pacing a bit. It’s slow, but feels more intentional. Given the ending, I really want to see where the sequel goes–Historically: Napoleon! , so onward we go!

Side note: I’m putting this as “Historical SFF (Hard: Not based in Britain or Ireland)” under Hard Mode, since quite a lot of the book stakes place in France and in the Caribbean. I’ll replace it if I read another.