I wish Aunt Elizabeth were not so set against my having a Season this year. She is still annoyed about the incident with the goat, and says that to let the pair of us loose on London would ruin us both for good, and spoil Georgy's chances into the bargain.
Sorcery and Cecelia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot is just so ... charming, is the best word I find to describe it, but that's not enough. It's charming, it's intelligent, it's funny, it's mysterious, it's clever, it's just so damned delightful I can't quite wrap my head around my enormous, immediate, and unconditional love for this book. I loved this book so much the first time through that I've started it a second time, really-truly, which is the first time that's happened since the advent of this blog. I used to do it a lot more when I wasn't trying to expand my reading horizons as much as I am now. But I just can't get enough of this one.
First thing to note: I am a Patricia C. Wrede fan, and have been since grade seven when I absently picked up a little book called Dealing with Dragons from my homeroom teacher's classroom library. I love her sense of humour. I have not read nearly enough that she has written; The Thirteenth Child is on my list, but I haven't gotten to that yet. I've read the entire Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and a little book called The Raven Ring which I read the first time through and didn't quite like because it was, in many ways, way over my head. I've read it a couple of times since and enjoyed it much more with each reading.
I had never even heard of Caroline Stevermer, but you can be sure I'll be keeping an eye out for her other stuff, too.
This is a) a fantasy novel; b) an epistolary novel, and c) a Regency romance in the style of Jane Austen. That is to say, it was a pretty much guaranteed hit for me, although having had experiences where I should love a book and really didn't, I went into this one with some trepidation. Cecelia (Cecy) and Katherine (Kate) are cousins, living comfortably on an estate in Essex. Kate has been taken to London by their Aunt Charlotte to be presented for her first Season with her younger (and prettier) sister Georgina. Cecy has been kept back at home, ostensibly because of the goat, and is to have her coming out Season the year following. Things start to go a little wonky when a witch attempts to murder Kate and Cecy meets a lovely young woman who seems to attract more than her fair share of suitors. Luckily for these two wonderful young women, they have their wits about them and a speedy post to deliver their detailed and often highly amusing letters to each other.
I think Wrede and Stevermer must have had a riot writing this book. It was great fun to read, and it's the kind of great fun that only happens when the authors themselves have thoroughly enjoyed producing the work. I have only two little quibbles, and both come in towards the end; one is a major spoiler, although you'll likely see it coming somewhere just after the midway mark. It has to do with the villains, and villainous motives, and which villain has which motives, and which villain turns out to be more effective. I think it was a little cliched and that was a bit disappointing. The other was that there is a bit of a deus ex machina that appears close to the end. It's a well-integrated one, but I don't think that lets it entirely off the hook. That said, who cares. There are too many other things to like.
Both Cecy and Kate are lovely characters, similar in the ways that relatives with common experience who are also dear friends may be, but different enough that they each have a distinctive voice and distinctive mode of action and thought. They are supportive of each other, and often encourage each other. They will also discourage actions they consider problematic (but they don't always listen to the other's advice.) They work things out together, and I love that. The secondary characters are each fleshed out quite well, as well, through conversations the two report having, through their observations, and through their occasional funny and Austen-esque gossip. The secondary characters are varied and interesting, though not always fully fleshed out, as one might expect in a novel told in letters.
I am on the lookout for a copy of this book now, and consider it a must-have for my collection. It's been on my radar for a while now, but it was Cecelia's (no relation) blog that finally pushed me over the edge. If you're looking for something light and utterly charming, you cannot go wrong with this book.