A Practical Guide to Sorcery

A Practical Guide to Sorcery

by AzaleaEllis

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity

In a world where magic is a science, Siobhan Naught is a genius.

But even geniuses need schooling.

Siobhan has just been banned from the country's only magical university.

As the unwitting accomplice to the theft of a priceless magical artifact, she has suddenly become a wanted criminal. There are fates worse than death, and if caught, she will face them. Unwilling to give up on her dream of becoming the world's most powerful sorcerer, she resolves to do whatever it takes to change her fate.

Even if it means magically disguising herself as a boy and indebting herself to a gang of criminals to pay for University tuition.

With the coppers after her, the pressure of trying to keep her spot in the devilishly competitive magic classes, and the gang calling in favors to repay her debts, Siobhan will need every drop of magic she can channel.

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AzaleaEllis

AzaleaEllis

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Table of Contents
120 Chapters
Chapter Name Release Date
Chapter 1 - Escape via Unexpected Transmutation ago
Chapter 2 - Opportunity Knocks for a Sorcerer ago
Chapter 3 - A Business Contract ago
Chapter 4 - Puzzles & Self-Creation ago
Chapter 5 - Bad First Impressions ago
Chapter 6 - The Danger of too Little Information ago
Chapter 7 - Filial Anxiety ago
Chapter 8 - Lino-Wharton Messenger ago
Chapter 9 - Crossing the Threshold of Disillusionment ago
Chapter 10 - Playing Detective ago
Chapter 11 - Written Examination ago
Chapter 12 - Oral Examination ago
Chapter 13 - Objects in Mirror ago
Chapter 14 - Simple Wards & Foreign Ideas ago
Chapter 15 - Dysphoria ago
Chapter 16 - Harmless Blood Magic ago
Chapter 17 - A Toast to Forceful Personalities ago
Chapter 18 - Orientation ago
Chapter 19 - Introduction to Modern Magics ago
Chapter 20 - Practical Will-based Casting ago
Chapter 21 - No Greatness Without Adversity ago
Chapter 22 - Sympathy & Defense ago
Chapter 23 - A Busy Schedule ago
Chapter 24 - The Menagerie ago
Chapter 25 - Alchemy ago
Chapter 26 - Bargains Big and Small ago
Chapter 27 - Study Group ago
Chapter 28 - Admit You Don't Understand ago
Chapter 29 - Kindred Spirits ago
Chapter 30 - (A Rather Poor) Rescue ago
A Conjuring of Ravens Pre-Order ago
Chapter 31 - Arriving to Class Naked ago
Chapter 32 - Sheltered from the Storm ago
Chapter 33 - Temporary Inversion of Income vs. Expense ago
Chapter 34 - Back Door Deals ago
Chapter 35 - Planar Divination-Diverting Ward ago
Chapter 36 - Conception of the Raven Queen ago
Chapter 37 - An Abridged Farewell ago
Chapter 38 - Competing for Points [Book 2 Start] ago
Chapter 39 - Paper Spells ago
Chapter 40 - Sleep Research ago
Chapter 41 - Friendships Forged by Accident ago
Chapter 42 - The Mysteries of Sleep ago
Chapter 43 - Alliance with the Nightmare Pack ago
Chapter 44 - Chastisement ago
Chapter 45 - Sirens ago
Chapter 46 - The Intersection of Transmutation and Transmogrification ago
Chapter 47 - Useless Clutter ago
Chapter 48 - Unresolved Curiosity ago
Chapter 49 - Reverse Scrying ago
Chapter 50 - Eagle Tower ago
Chapter 51 - Saved by the Enemy ago
Chapter 52 - Faulty Deductions ago
Chapter 53 - Through a Glass Darkly ago
Chapter 54 - Commission to Investigate ago
Chapter 55 - A Pact of Stars ago
Chapter 56 - Forming a Team ago
Chapter 57 - Noticing Confusion ago
Chapter 58 - The Constitution of Cockroaches ago
Chapter 59 - A Simple Solution ago
Chapter 60 - Request a Boon ago
Chapter 61 - To Slumber but not Rest ago
Chapter 62 - Cold Sweat ago
Chapter 63 - Theoretical Exercises ago
Chapter 64 - Snowfall & Spilled Secrets ago
Chapter 65 - A Convenient Concoction ago
Chapter 66 - An Interview ago
Chapter 67 - Secret Thaumaturge Meeting ago
Chapter 68 - Attack Strategy ago
Chapter 69 - Drills ago
Chapter 70 - Old Wives' Tales ago
Chapter 71 - The Penultimate Piece ago
Chapter 72 - First Fallen ago
Chapter 73 - Mid-Terms & Tournament ago
Chapter 74 - The Glasshopper ago
Chapter 75 - These Violent Delights ago
Chapter 76 - Healing ago
Chapter 77 - Have Violent Ends ago
Chapter 78 - A Sacrifice of Light ago
Chapter 79 - Connections ago
Chapter 80 - Nerves Wracked ago
Chapter 81 - The Siverling Line ago
Chapter 82 - Things Go Wrong ago
Chapter 83 - Things Get Worse ago
Chapter 84 - Blight ago
Chapter 85 - Pullulation ago
Chapter 86 - The Consolations of Philosophy ago
Chapter 87 - Decoherence ago
Chapter 88 - The Implied Invisible ago
Chapter 89 - Hiraeth ago
Prologue 0.1 - Transfer Paperwork [Book 3 Start] ago
Chapter 90 - On the Nature of Shadows ago
Chapter 91 - The Sun is also a Star ago
Chapter 92 - She Who Brings the Night ago
Chapter 93 - In the Still of the Morning ago
Chapter 94 - Tea and Cookies ago
Chapter 95 - Prose and Points ago
Chapter 96 - Bini Frogs & Existential Crises ago
Chapter 97 - Good Advice ago
Chapter 98 - Excessive Force ago
Chapter 99 - Charitable Performance ago
Chapter 100 - The Press ago
Chapter 101 - Game Plan ago
Chapter 102 - First Moves ago
Chapter 103 - Illusion Chamber ago
Chapter 104 - A Fit of Pique ago
Chapter 105 - Uncomfortable Scrutiny ago
Chapter 106 - Witchcraft ago
Chapter 107 - Negotiations by Proxy ago
Chapter 108 - Peace Talks ago
Chapter 109 - Hard Bargains ago
Chapter 110 - Hidden Daggers ago
Chapter 111 - Cunning and Craft ago
Chapter 112 - Myths and Legends ago
Chapter 113 - Heed my Prayer ago
Chapter 114 - Tintinnabulation ago
Chapter 115 - Experimenting on Mice ago
Chapter 116 - Operation Defenestration ago
Chapter 117 - Babysitting ago
Chapter 118 - Wave-Particle Duality ago

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lil_literalist
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

A criminally under-read novel of quality

Reviewed at: Chapter 115 - Experimenting on Mice

Overall

A quality novel which deserves to be in the top 20 on this site, and is higher quality than many of the big-name novels. The chapters are long, but I want to read more after every release. 

 

Style

The writing flows smoothly and is enjoyable to read. The pace is good for the most part, and changes of viewpoint are always clearly indicated. The author is very clear about using different names when the MC is in her different forms as well.

The reason why this isn't 5 stars is because of some slow classroom scenes. There are some science lectures on the natural world that are actually very well-researched and informative, but do slow down the pace of the story. The chapters do dedicate time to talking about how knowledge of that science is applicable to casting magic, so it's still worth reading, just not everyone's cup of tea. (It's only a few mediocre-at-worst chapters, though. And a poll did show that a number of people did like those parts.)

On the plus side, this story has some fantastic dialogue. I especially want to call out the bartering (when MC eventually discovers the concept, at least). Far too many novels think that bartering is just two different prices listed, and both sides eventually coming closer to a number in the middle. This novel actually does it intelligently, and is probably the best example of it that I have ever read.

 

Story

I almost didn't give this novel a chance because I associated the Gender Bender tag with cringey fanfics written by authors who couldn't write either gender convincingly. But this story absolutely delivers! And it does so without the weird sexuality and romance that many Gender Bender novels feature. It features prominently in the story, but as a plot device rather than being the point of the story itself.

There is plenty of intrigue and discovery, as well as a fair bit of action. Although MC is a genius like the intro says, she's not like some novel protagonists who make you wonder if they even need to go to school. MC is a medium-sized fish who hops between different-sizes bodies of water. (Metaphorically, not literally.) There are times when she gets by on bluster as well as times where we get to see her shine.

But power is not just limited to personal strength of what a character can do. This novel does a fantastic job of exploring how reputation can work, both positively and negatively. 

The author also isn't adverse to letting bad things happen. Sometimes the MC loses. And the story is better for it once the dust settles.

There is foreshadowing and events which are planned out in advance. If you see a detail that sticks out as odd or something that doesn't quite make sense, it's probably not that the author made a mistake, but more likely that there is something coming up related to that.

One example that is shown at the beginning which doesn't get fully addressed until much later on is 

the absolutely usurious interest rate of 50% on MC's loan. 

 

 

Grammar

As with many reviews, I'll leave this short. Nothing to complain about, and what few errors are discovered are quickly fixed.

 

Characters

Not all characters in this novel are created equal, but everyone feels like an actual person with their own motivations and aspirations. MC is not the only intelligent person in the world. 

My favorite minor character is Theo, and he should be yours as well.

ranoche
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

tldr; a very enjoyable story hampered by timeskips and poor world building

edit:i did this review at chapter 70 

message to author: i am going to be extremely harsh in this review but that is because i very much enjoyed this story and many of my complaints are still fixable. i will continue to read this story in the future and i hope you continue writing for many years

style: it can best be summarized as a plot point happens, a week long time skip happens, and another plot point happens. this creates a sense of time passing but also leaves side characters feeling stagnant

story: a father steals a book for no good reason forcing his daughter to carry it. while on the run part of the book allows her to change appearances allowing her to escape with an ally. the mc does not want the book but makes no real attempt to return it, explain the situation to the authorities, or do anything other then make herself look more suspicious and complicit. ive taken off stars because the mc has shown to be an extremely rash but reasonable person that would logically make an attempt to explain herself but never does. taking out a loan of 1000 gold she fakes being a noble so she can go to school in secret and in the mean time helps her loan shark ally expand his gang activities. her new buddy a foreign lord who wants to improve the lives of others but everyone else is either corrupt, incompetent, or apathetic. there is no good people on the other side. no good nobles. no good police. no good merchants. a curious mix of slice of life, drama, and action it sets a fast pace that fits well with how chaotic and busy the mcs new life is

world building. the biggest gripe i have with this story is the economics. as an example the mc needs roughly 5k gold to reach the apprentice level. this is made out to be a rediculious amount but within a few months of study the mc can make 6 potions that cost roughly 12 gold to sell for 80 gold. to put that into perspective a day laborer doing unskilled labor might never be able to pay off a 50 gold loan in his life time. one of the student aids who has been there over a year is poor and they pay them 3 gold a week to spy on someone for hours a day. this is said like its a high price to them but why cant a student well into his second year make as much making potions, refining material, or artifacts as someone barely into their first year. with such incredible profit margins even a start up loan of ten gold could be paid off in 2 weeks. its really just a hot mess of the "everything costs gold" writing trope. this needs serious refinement before you get into real looney tunes level of price inflation

main characters. the three main character are very distinct in their personalities, beliefs, and actions. the mc is intelligent but rash and prone to poor judgment. oliver the l.s. is an idealist thats basically trying to brute force his ideals. brash, over confident, and basically openly treasonous. he often talks about how he wants only to help people even as he puts commoners so far in debt he knows hell always have their loyalty or else. damian is an arrogant spoiled child trying his best to make friends. theyre well develop but sometimes feel like theyre acting in ways that go against their stated  beliefs. that said we know little about their pasts and what lead them to where they are now

side characters: many side characters are around but have no real development. anas been with them since the start but probably has only ten lines of dialogue. theo a ten year old has had more screen time and development.  newt is developed later but his "poor commoner" status seems nonsensical considering hes already been there a year. many of the side characters see the mc as an all powerful sorcerer but this is done in such a comical fashion that they just look grossly incompetent in their explanations of events. when you timeskip every other chapter poor side character growth is bound to happen but could be fixedfairly easily.

villains: faceless is the best description. all the guards are corrupt and bribed. literally not a single good one they can turn to. nobles hear about the l.s. desire to help commoners and shrug and ignore him or are completely ok with making commoners lives harder. the marrows gang is filled with people who sell woman into prostitution, sell hard drugs, and other terrible things. like the coppers theyre just faceless goons meant to be used to drive forward how great and benevolent the good faction is. theres a hidden struggle between the crown and the coppers to get the book. so urgent is the needs that they completely ignore trying to contact her to negotiate but instead spends tens of thousands of gold hiring grandmasters to locate her. considering the obvious reference in the series title i find it strange to make villains so 2d.

Rose Petals
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

So many stories are essentially the same Isekai Litrpg on this site, so its rather nice to find a good Urban fantasy series.  The magic system is well designed, and the characters are intelligent yet have believable blind spots and flaws.  The setting feels real and not something contrived to be easily defeated by the main character.  The plot is not propelled by artificial stupidity either.  Arguably, it has a bit too much exposition, but it fits well with the setting of a Magical School.  

 

I could nitpick about many little things, some word choices here and there, but overall this story is a breath of fresh air on this site.   I like Siobahn and I want to read more about her.  I want to see her learning with Professor Lacer, her trading barbs with Damien.  I enjoy her interactions with Oliver Dryden and I want to see the Stags succeed.  I want to see her semi-accidentally fool the Coppers as the Raven Queen.  I want to see Siobahn learn more and discover more about magic.  I want to learn more about this world, its magic, its history.  I like this serial.  Its quite fun to read, and I am grateful I found it.  It deserves more love and hopefully it can get more popular.

OvidLemma
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

A well-crafted fantasy with deep worldbuilding

Reviewed at: Chapter 47 - Useless Clutter

A superbly-written story with believable and well-rounded characters, deep world-building, and a fascinating magic system. This is ostensibly a story of Siobhan Naught's quest to become a powerful sorceress despite a bevy of social and criminal forces arrayed against her. However, Azalea Ellis's story takes us through a rollicking adventure through the criminal underworld, a school for sorcery, and the peaks of high society in a well-imagined fantasy setting.

The magic system in this novel is especially deep, and we are introduced to it a bit at a time rather than in big infodumps. We learn about the various types of magic, including divination and the important differences between transmutation and transmogrification, the importance of spell circles versus freecasting, etc. as the magic of the world plays out and as Siobahn learns more magic and competes against more advanced friends and foes. And, despite that depth, magic keeps its mystique and the aura of a strange, otherworldly power that even experts cannot claim to fully comprehend. That is to say, it's fascinating without ever overwhelming.

The biggest gripe I have is that the author keeps aggravating plot devices around for a while - for instance Siobahn/Sebastien's conduit issues. But this certainly serves to create dramatic tension and keep the plot rolling. There's quite a bit of action, lots of character drama, and plenty of likable/enjoyable characters with varying shades of gray morality. I highly recommend this story to anybody who likes hard magic systems, steampunk, or gaslamp in their fantasy systems.

cv0k
Overall

I didn't expect that much just based on the title of the book, because really, that seems like a cheap ripoff. I stumbled across it on the SpaceBattles forum, really rather by chance, but now I'm glad I gave it a chance.

The writing is good, the main character has their very own personality, the side characters are quirky just the right amount and the plot is actually quite good, despite the glacial pace for an epic fantasy novel (a few short months over 70 chapters so far). 

PS: I read the novel on the peronal website of the author, where you get the latest chapters a bit earlier (just shame about the missing dark mode there :)

millyleu
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Good story doesn’t disappoint for binge reading

Reviewed at: Chapter 60 - Request a Boon

original review:

I've subscribed to their Patreon. Written after reading ch16 on their website after subscribing.

This story is still young but I can tell this will be a mainstay of feeding my reading addiction.

Excellent grammar. No errors. Probably has already been ran by an editor, or the author is a competent editor themselves.

Pacing and character development seem good so far - I'm not sure how to critique this besides noting that we naturally learn more about the characters and environment as the story progresses.

The magic system was introduced quite naturally while describing the actions of the main character and the setting in the first few chapters. No awkwardness of lengthy worldbuilding monologues or paragraphs, and this is not a LitRPG where blue boxes literally tell you about the world.

I am quite grateful to find stories on RoyalRoad that have good strong characters that are not portrayed in a contrived, stiff, or awkward manner.

Given that the author's website boasts of an established series that... I think are in an unrelated world to this one? Definitely the work of an experienced writer.

While this story is not long enough to remotely have the depth of story threads like the Wandering Inn or Game of Thrones, there is potential for a decently thought out world. There's some political background, background of the main character's benefactor, background of the main character, and it is obvious that the backgrounds of the future characters that Siobhan will meet have been planned out already.

Happy to stay subscribed as of this first binge-through read.

Also happy to have picked up a story I am confident will reach trending, fresh from the "New Releases" chapter list.

edited 7/21/2021 having read 62 chapters:

dropped character score by 2 stars. main character has a consistent... ... lowborn but elitist attitude borne from desperate workaholism that creates bitterness. I expected some more balance to the character's internal monologue after a while but it... really has not let up. Reading about a character that is so utterly convinced they are always right and being irritable and dismissive of everyone else... like it's a really good strong character creation. That I just wanted some change in at this point. It grates to read for me because it reminds me strongly of how so many folks love to be stuck in their own bubble and never try to communicate their political views from a POV of respect for the intellect of anyone that disagrees with them.

I had been pleasantly surprised to find such quality character creation on RoyalRoad that I bought into expecting equally engaging character growth. Maybe that growth is planned to happen later on but at 62 chapters in this reads as a very polished unique take of a rags to riches mage story. It greatly satisfies the cathartic reader ego-stroking that comes with the obsessive need to binge read content like a stereotypical overpowered cultivation story where you know the main character has a manifest destiny.

At the end of the day I realize I read either to enjoy myself or to change myself, and they blend together sometimes. I would still highly recommend this story from an enjoyment perspective (although if I juxtapose that against the political climate and my personal cringing at proliferate pigheaded discourse... my enjoyment has soured over time.) But at this point I don't expect to be moved by this story beyond "I love reading about hardworking characters". It's the long-suffering victimhood mentality that gets to me.

Maybe I'm growing up as a reader and graduating from being satisfied by good RoyalRoad stories. Don't get me wrong this is still quality writing. I am still going to keep checking back in and following this story. I just... for some reason I thought this story would be more.

10/10 still quality binge read material 

2/7/2022 edit: increased character score from 3 to 4 here after reading another story that was much more scattered in their character construction. 

 

 

actuallynotanegg
Overall

Reads like more of a typical fantasy novel rather than something you would expect to find here. In that regard, the writing is quality, and it all feels really coherent, but for me personally, it didn't quite grab me. I'm kind of a sucker for fantasy school settings (bit of a niche), I don't think this really managed to dive all the way into that setting or the other stuff enough to really keep me hooked. Try it though, it's not bad.

TigerCannon
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Stellar Harry Potter + Mistborn genre fusion

Reviewed at: Chapter 39 - Paper Spells & Sleep Research

On the one hand, you have a character in the seedy underbelly of a big city, defying the law and learning illegal magic, and on the other hand, you have a character attending a fantastical school of magic with some darker underpinnings, and all the supercharged high school shenanigans that come with it.

This story is definitely distinct though. I would hesitate to say it's even inspired by either book (they're just each emblematic of a very specific and poorly-defined genre), but the story scratches the same itches that each of them do, and the combination is better than the sum of its parts.

The school life bits contrast well with the mage-punk bits and provide some breathing room where it might otherwise get too frantic/stressful, and the mage-punk parts provide some substance and tension where the school-life genre would normally wear thin.

Throw in a helping of fantasy D&D-style lore, add a great, meaty magic system, toss in a dash of gender bender for zest, and you have this story.

As for the individual aspects:

Style: The writing is solid, descriptive and just flowery enough to convey the wonder of magic, without slowing the story down. The one point I'll criticize about it is that it occasionally gets a bit preachy, with some long-winded rants about class warfare/division/injustice. However, that is a main theme of the story, and my dislike is mainly due to having seen similar things so many times before, so I don't think the rating deserves a knock for it. Someone new to those ideas or who particularly enjoys them might appreciate those sections more than I dislike them.

Grammar: it gud. Only the most pedantic of the pedantic are likely to have an issue with it.

Story: The story of the first book is good, it has decent progression, a few good twists and turns, and a good climax. It's nothing extraordinary on its own, I would probably put it in the 4-4.5 range on its own, but the world building and magic system push it firmly into 5 star territory. The wider world is fascinating and hinted at just enough to feed the imagination, while the magic is just the right blend of soft and hard magic systems.

Characters: They do the job. The main characters are well fleshed out, but their motivations are a little bit single-minded/simple. The side characters are pretty forgettable, apart from usually a single notable personality trait. Basically, they're like D&D characters. All that said though, they work perfectly well for the story being told. I wouldn't call this a character-driven story, but they're not a weakness either.

 

Overall, solid first book, and a promising start to the second. If you're craving something similar to one of the books from the title, or are just interested in the tags/description, give it a shot. (Also, how rare is it to find a gender bender story with neither romance nor creepy perv stuff? Plus one where the gender-bending isn't the core focus of the story? I'm impressed by that alone.)

hg2b
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

 

Overall: Believable and engaging high fantasy story which stands on its own merits and sets itself out to become a long-running, expansive work. A turbulent and eventful ride towards a looming great upheaval that appears to be anything but set in stone.

Style: Well balanced between dialog, scene-setting, and introspection. Centered around the lead, but uses occasional perspective shifts with great effect. No "filler" content or otherwise abusive cliffhangers.

Story: Original world and (magic-)systems within, each well integrated in the overarching story and explored when sufficiently interacted with. Several strands of interesting plot on varying scales, with the greatest moving at expectedly infinitesimal speed, all connected through the lead. Well-tempered growth of scope, with no hints of runaway progression. Uses a variety and combination of tropes but is not overly reliant on them.

Grammar: Seems good, from the perspective of a non-native speaker (though avid reader). A bit spiced up by the quirk introduced by the lead's particularities.

Characters: Well-paced introduction of new ones, each with distinct characteristics that get explored progressively. No over-exposition and reasonably amounts of hints to further character depth to be uncovered throughout the story.

Side notes: Recurring theme of poor sleep (quality). Would expect this to easily reach 4 to 10 times the current (75 ch) length, depending on the engaged breadth of the story in the later stages.

Gentledragon
Overall

A practical guide to sorcerery is excellent. The grammar is very good, and I didn't notice any errors. The author has a nice style, descriptive and concise, with dialogue that's teeming with personality. The magic system is intriguing and the world interesting. It's still early days as far as the plot is concerned, but the seeds are there for a great story.

Recommended for people of all tastes. Currently in a magical university arc, if that's your thing.