Published: June 23, 2020
Genre: Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 544 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
A sweeping tale of revolution and wonder in a world not quite like our own, A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a genre-defying story of magic, war, and the struggle for freedom in the early modern world.
It is the Age of Enlightenment — of new and magical political movements, from the necromancer Robespierre calling for revolution in France to the weather mage Toussaint L’Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.
But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos.
If you want a book that’s almost an impromptu history lesson check this outtttt. This is set right around the time of the French Revolution from 1779 – 1794 and primarily follows William Pitt, Maximilien Robespierre, and a slave girl named Fina. I knew some about the French Revolution from past history classes (though I generally preferred pre-modern Europe), but this sort of opened a fascinating rabbit hole of additional reading. I was googling characters to see if they were real people and if events sort of did really happen as such (aside from the clearly magical fiction). This is basically a history lesson with magic.
Fina was a slave on a sugar plantation in Jamaica who eventually made her way to the French island of Saint-Domingue to join the rebellion of Toussaint L’Ouverture. She doesn’t have as many chapters in the beginning of the book, but they are nonetheless interesting and heartbreaking. The slave masters use a potion that essentially traps people in their bodies and most can’t even speak or move without a direct command to do so. Fina is stuck like this for so many years, until she eventually and inexplicably is no longer affected.
William Pitt is a rather famous figure in British history, well known for his position as Prime Minister. In this book, the reader gets to follow him and he and several of his dear friends including William Wilberforce as they take on the slave trade, the French, and so many other things. Pitt has magical talents, though he keeps his true classification a secret from all but Wilberforce who acts as a balancing voice to him. They have quite the adventures and come face to face with loose Shadows on several occasions.
Maxmilien Robespierre may be the most well known of the historical figures in this book, as he is one of the fathers of the French Revolution. He starts out as a peaceful man, calling for reform while his companions write burning critiques of the monarchy and the Templars that control and punish commoner magicians. You see, commoners with a magical talent are braceleted at birth, so that the Templars might track them and punish them if they were to use their powers. It all starts with good intentions and then things get out of hand and thousands are being guillotined and the streets run red with blood.
Behind so much of this is a dark figure pulling the strings. He’s in contact with Robespierre, granting him more powerful mesmeric magic, he’s summoning shades, he’s enabling the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue all for his own gain at the end. The reader spends almost the entire book wondering who and perhaps what this shadowy figure is and what they hope to gain from the chaos.
This was such a well-written historical fantasy and though it took me a week to finish it, it was well worth the time. The subject matter was deep and it needed to be read carefully and sometimes in small doses when things got serious. The characterization was brilliant; you could feel the desperation as things spiraled out of control and ultimately, if you know history you know how things end. Who lives and who dies.