Genre: Historical Fantasy
Release Date: June 23rd, 2020
As you can see above, I’m trying something a little bit new with the reviews on the blog. Please do let me know what you think about it.
Thank you to Orbit for providing an ebook version of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
William Pitt and William Wilberforce are old friends, drawn together by their careers and enjoying the last years of their youth. But a trip to France, shortly before Pitt becomes Prime Minister, sees them encountering something strange and deadly. Meanwhile, Robespierre discovers his own magical abilities, and uses them to light a spark to France’s revolution. In Jamaica, Fina’s body starts to rebel against the potion that keeps her and other slaves unable to do anything but obey the men who run the plantations.
A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a book which covers the growing abolitionist movement in Great Britain, the French Revolution, and the slave uprisings in the Caribbean, with the addition of magic. In this world, the aristocrats are able to essentially use magic freely, as long as their form of magic isn’t too dangerous. The commoners, however, are tested when born, and if they are found to have magic, The Knights Templar – who oversee the use of magic – attach a bracelet to them, which alerts them and injures the wearer if magic is used.
Many of the main characters are dedicated to trying to eradicate this system, seeing it as unfair and cruel, while Wilberforce is particularly troubled by the treatment of slaves. There are many historical names that crop up during the course of the story, and it’s clear the research done for this novel is solid. Parry makes it feel like this book could have been lifted from 18th century. The way magic presented is interesting, but the majority of the book, admittedly, is taken over by dialogue and politics.
This book is politics heavy. It’s something I really liked, but I can imagine would put other readers off. I liked the discussions between the characters, the talks over morality and freedom and responsibility. There were still some tense action scenes too, but most of the big action was sort of shifted off-screen slightly, with the POV characters only taking small roles and not witnessing much of the actual action.
I really enjoyed the verbal exchanges between various characters, which at times felt like reading a dance or sword-fight, as characters untangled their words and tried to plot their next steps.
My only (minor) complaint was that the novel finished really abruptly, but I was very relieved to find out this was the first in a duology.
In a lot of ways, the book reminded me of Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell, another book I really loved, with the time period and the weaving in of magic with actual historical events. But in A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians, the scope is wider, the story more sprawling, and it covers more aspects than Susanna Clarke’s novel.
I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel to this novel, and if you like Historical Fantasy with a heavy dose of dialogue and politics, definitely pick this one up.