The Accidental Sorcerer by K. E. Mills has been on my to be read list for quite some time. The main reason I hadn’t read it was fairly simple – Amazon kept telling me it wasn’t available on Kindle. Later books in the Rogue Agent series were, just the first one wasn’t. I liked the blurb. I was intrigued by the concept. But the website kept telling me that the book couldn’t be purchased in my country.
What a bloody cheek I thought to myself. It’s an Australian author and everything. I hate the labyrinthian world of international publication rights.
Turns out I must have been doing something stupid. I eventually stumbled across the eBook version through some combination of searches and following links from other books. Now it shows up very easily when I search for the obscure phrase “The Accidental Sorcerer K E Mills”. <insert deity of choice here> knows what I was doing before.
Anyway, book firmly (but electronically) in hand, I started reading. The Accidental Sorcerer is based in an alternate Earth, somewhere in the equivalent of the late 19th/early 20th century. The main difference is that magic is very real and is being combined in interesting ways with the products of the industrial revolution. Our hero, Gerald Dunwoody, is a lowly ranked wizard on the edge of giving up his dreams of greatness. He has taken a public service job as a magical safety inspector and is sent on a surprise inspection of a magic staff manufacturing facility when things go horribly wrong. He manages to avert complete catastrophe (something that shouldn’t have been possible for such a low powered wizard) but still manages to get blamed for it all. Rather than stay in the England-equivalent country (Ottoland), he takes a job in the colonies in a small, unremarkable country (New Ottoland) as court wizard, hoping that the heat will eventually die down. Bad things ensue.
I enjoyed the alternate world aspect, especially examining how society might progress if magic was real and pervasive. The “mother country/colony” dynamic was explored, which has particular resonance for an Australian audience constantly battling with our own cultural cringe. It had that very British sensibility that I always enjoy.
I also liked the magic system. While not described in huge detail, there was that iceberg sense that Mills had worked this through under the surface so that the parts poking up into the air had a certain consistency.
I was a bit hit and miss with some of the dialogue. There was some excellent banter between characters, but also some that was trying a bit too hard to be witty. The voice of one of the minor characters (Reg the bird) didn’t quite strike the right chord for me, I could see what the character was meant to be, but it didn’t quite gel. Her mysterious history as a powerful political player in the past didn’t really match some of her more superficial comments as the plot progressed. However, other minor characters (such as Monk) were very nicely characterised.
The first half of the novel is quite light hearted. The second half moves into much darker and morally ambiguous territory. I really liked the contrast, and also how this transition established the scene for further novels. I think if the tone had stayed on the light end, I would have struggled to see how this could have been anything more than a one off novel. There was enough complexity by the end to justify an ongoing series.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but also can I say that the set up for future novels (the premise for Gerald’s future career) was great, and I especially appreciated how elements had been introduced through the book that came together nicely to support that direction. That’s a bit cryptic, but you should know what I mean once you’ve read the book.
I will be reading the other books in this series (at some undisclosed point in the future when I am more up to date with my current reading). In the mean time I commend The Accidental Sorcerer for your reading pleasure.
I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.
This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.
5 thoughts on “The Accidental Sorcerer by K. E. Mills – review”
I think I read and reviewed book 4 of this series and bought the first one for my sister who then promptly read all of them :D. I like Mills' writing and the steampunkish world she has created. Or perhaps its not steampunk but fantasy Victoriana.
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Yes, I thought it had a steampunk sensibility but not a lot of the trappings of steampunk. Kind of magic-punk.
My recent post The Accidental Sorcerer by K. E. Mills – review