Bought and liberated as a child, and later adopted by the esteemed Sorcerer Royal, Sir Stephen Whyte, Zacharias Whyt now has the honour of being the first dark-skinned Sorcerer Royal of England. In a time when English magic is waning due to some mysterious restrictions from the Faerie courts and the country is still facing threats from Napoleon on the Continent, Zacharias is also facing personal challenges, with a seeming majority of the members of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers (gentleman magicians) accusing him of having murdered and usurped Sir Stephen and having destroyed his faerie familiar. They are plotting to having Zacharias removed and replaced, in a process that won’t really end well for the poor man.
In this stressful time, Zacharias is persuaded by a friend to go give a talk at a girls’ school in the countryside, where he discovers that contrary to the popular belief among the Society, that women are only capable of minor hexes and cantrips to help them in the home, many of the young gentlewomen at the school are vastly skilled and are being taught modified curses to drain the magic out of themselves, because it’s deemed unseemly for women to possess or use magic at all. He also meets the formidable Miss Prunella Gentleman, and orphan of uncertain parentage (but it’s clear that her mother was of Indian persuasion), who appears to have more magic at her ready disposal and control than all of England’s male magicians put together. She is also in possession of a magical treasure of untold value and Zacharias feels he has no other choice but to take her with him to London, to tutor her so she doesn’t run around uncontrolled.
Of course, once Prunella, used as she is to fixing, sorting and managing everything, discovers the extent to the troubles Zacharias is facing, she’s determined to help him sort them out. The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers won’t know what hit them.