Regency romance gets a post-colonial spin in this delightful historical fantasy of dragons and pontianaks, which its Malaysian author has described as “the kind of book you read when you have a cold”.

In an alternate 19th-century England, Zacharias Wythe becomes the first magician of African heritage to be appointed Sorcerer Royal to the Crown.

It is his unenviable task to restore England’s waning magic, all the while beset by racist attacks, accusations that he murdered his predecessor and the occasional assassination attempt.

On a trip to Fairyland to discern the source of the magical drought, he crosses paths with runaway orphan Prunella Gentleman, who is determined to escape the boarding school for highborn witches where she has slaved all her life.

The antics of the effervescent if unscrupulous Prunella – with her “gift of occasioning shock”, as a long-suffering Zacharias puts it – carry the novel.

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