Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede

So, I have been having trouble finding things I want to read. It's been pretty serious; it has been to the point where I feel irritated with books just for sitting there on the desk, accusing me. This happens sometimes with various aspects of my life, but only very rarely with books. So I went back to my old standby: fantasy written by authors I know I like. I settled on Mairelon the Magician because I couldn't believe I hadn't read it yet; I love Wrede's writing, and her stories which are generally gentle on the brain, and her feisty, witty, and intelligent female leads.

Of course, when I picked it up, it turns out... I have read it. I had just forgotten what the title of that particular story I loved was. Also, I am pretty sure I have read the sequel, Magician's Ward, and recall enjoying it if not being quite as enamoured of it as I was the first book.

So anyway, I read Mairelon again, and I think I have enjoyed it even more the second time, because I know what to watch for. And I read it much more as a fantasy with hints of Pygmalion than I had before, too, though not sure why that slipped me by last time as it's really quite blindingly obvious, down to Mairelon teaching the guttersnipe Kim to speak properly so as to be presentable in society. That said, Mairelon is not half the ass Higgins is; this reads like an entertaining rags-to-riches fairytale rather than a prickly lampooning of classism and sexism. And while I appreciate Shaw's brilliance and have always liked Pygmalion (particularly with its unromanticized ending) it's not exactly an easy, fun read. Mairelon is. Where Pygmalion is funny and wince-inducing and occasionally horrifying, Mairelon is funny and sweet.

The premise is that Kim is a street kid in an alternate London, where magic is known and practiced, sometime around the early 1800s. She's managed to disguise herself as a boy so far, though her luck on that is going to run out shortly. So that's why she takes a job snooping for a man she doesn't trust; he's promised her five pounds and that money might just be enough to get her off the street. Unfortunately, the snooping takes place in a wagon that happens to be owned by a real magician, and Kim springs a trap. But rather than turning her over to the authorities, the magician thinks Kim might be somewhat useful to him and offers her a job as his apprentice. She takes it, because it gets her out of London -- and Kim's curious as to what the mysterious Mairelon is truly up to.

I really did enjoy this book, thoroughly, and I've actually ordered A Matter of Magic in for purchase at my favourite local bookstore -- that's the recently released omnibus edition that includes Mairelon the Magician and its sequel, Magician's Ward. It's a good re-read, and has firmly established itself in my list of comfort books. There's something about the Regency time period, magic, Wrede's sense of humour, and romance, that I just cannot get enough of. There's enough action to keep the plot clipping along smoothly, the villains are creepy enough (Laverham, Kim's nemesis, is downright chilling) and the world believable enough to create an excellent whole. This isn't serious, hard, thought-provoking reading. There's no deeper message, no social commentary other than the obvious bits on the surface. It's an absolute riot, though, and exactly my kind of thing.

And I couldn't get enough of it, so I read Sorcery and Cecelia all over again. That re-read review will be coming up.


Kaleidoscope Eyes 8 said...

There is a chance you are the one who turned me on to this series, but just in case, read "Wicked Lovely" by Melissa Marr – "Seventeen-year-old Aislinn, who has the rare ability to see faeries, is drawn against her will into a centuries-old battle between the Summer King and the Winter Queen, and the survival of her life, her love, and summer all hang in the balance."

Also, if you haven't read them, I recommend the "Poison Study" series by Maria V. Snyder. They are not quite like the books you usually review on here, but they do involve magic and are AWESOME – "About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace--and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear.... "

Bookwyrme said...

You've inspired me to reread the book. I love Wrede's stuff, and Sorcery & Cecelia is on my "comfort book" shelf.

Little Messy Missy said...

I love anything Pete Hautman writes. They are quick reads. I am reading one of the best books I have ever read in my life... The
Passage by Justin Cronin. It is a huge book 700+ pages. Very good.

Jill said...

I have very little recollection of this book, beyond remembering that I enjoyed it. Sounds like it's time for a reread. Love, love, love Sorcery and Cecelia! :-)

Unknown said...

Kaleidoscope - I haven't read any Marr (yet, it's on the list) so chances are you heard of it somewhere else! But I have indeed read Poison Study and loved it. I didn't like Magic Study nearly as much, and I haven't quite brought myself to pick up Fire Study yet. But I really liked the first one, in part because it was so different from a lot of what I read, but still hit all my "I like!" buttons.

Bookwyrme - Yay! So, what's so interesting about this is that I think it might actually be set in the same alternate London as Sorcery. Not 100% sure yet, but I am now watching for clues.

Missy - I haven't read anything by Hautman, but he's definitely on my list.

Darla - That was my problem, too! I'd completely forgotten I'd read it until I read the jacket. Once I got into it I remembered most of it quite clearly, but that only enhanced the experience. So much fun. I've just ordered The Grand Tour for myself, series completist that I am. I hope it comes in soon. I've really been enjoying my Wrede re-read. (Say that one five times fast!)