So as I was reading those Kowal books, people recommend Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown as another fantasy-Regency book worth reading. And it absolutely is. But it doesn’t read much like Kowal (or Austen), and instead feels more in the mold of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, in that it’s about gentleman sorcerers exploring the nature of English magic.
Except not “gentleman sorcerers” as such, because one of the main characters is a woman. And both of them have a complicated relationship with English gentility, due to their non-white backgrounds. This ends up working a lot better than writing around a should-be slave rebellion, and gives the characters depth and complexity that go beyond the cliches of Regency fiction.
Sorcerer to the Crown is extremely well-written stylistically, has great characters, and keeps its plot moving along nicely. There are a few places where the world-building is a bit unclear—it’s hard to tell how important or surprising things are when they don’t exist in the real world and characters in the book react with the flat affect of aristocratic reserve—but that’s a minor complaint. This is good stuff; it’s complete in itself, but it’s apparently the first book of a series, and I look forward to the sequels.