by Patricia C. Wrede
The sequel to Mairelon the Magician sees Kim and Mairelon a year after the events of the first book have closed. I was right; I have read this before. And actually, I think I enjoyed it as much as Mairelon the second time through, so that's good; I remember not enjoying it as much the first time through. There certainly isn't as much adventure, and like Kim I kind of missed the freedom she and Mairelon and Hunch shared while they were out in their wagon. But, since I am in a Regency mood, I quite enjoyed the manners and social protocol stuff, and the restrictions Kim faces are an interesting contrast to the "freedom" she had in the first book. I'm trying to remember if I first read this before I read Pride and Prejudice (I know, I know, it's stereotypical but it was my first Austen and it remains my favourite) and I think perhaps I did, which meant that I wasn't as familiar with or enamoured with that period as I am now. It certainly came before any Julia Quinn, which this also reminded me of.
So, the book starts quickly. Kim has been made Mairelon's ward, and she's been learning magic as well as various other niceties of society. They've arrived in London for the Season. Unfortunately, Mairelon's aunt is also in London for the Season, and she's quite set on making sure that Kim doesn't disgrace the Merrill family, and the best way to do that is to get her married off quickly and quietly, if that's even possible with someone of her background and station. Mairelon's been busy since they've been back in London, leaving Kim to her own (or, more accurately, his Aunt's) devices, and all the attendant societal restrictions. So she's rather miserable. And then, right off the top, someone breaks into the house, into the library. Kim foils the plan, and though the burglar gets away, he leaves behind some tantalizing clues. Things continue to get curiouser and curiouser, and then much more serious when a potentially devastating trap is sprung. Kim and Mairelon will need all their ingenuity and various skills to come through this adventure unscathed.
While I don't think this is quite as good as Sorcery and Cecelia, I do think it's as good as Mairelon the Magician, just in different ways. There's not as much out-and-out action; it's a little more subtle. This is not to say that this book doesn't have some exciting action -- my favourite scene in the book involves Kim dressing up as a lady and blowing into a moneylender's office with all the brashness and physicality of her street days. There are chases, rescues, and magical attacks. There are also some quietly funny moments, and some sweet and tender moments, too.
One of the weaknesses of the book, though not enough to turn me off it, is that there are some threads and characters that are introduced and then seem to vanish almost as quickly. I can think of three off the top of my head, including the possible menace of Jack Stower, one of Kim's street nemeses. He's reintroduced, and then that never really goes anywhere. It's almost as if he's there just to give Kim something to fret about.
Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable rags-to-riches type story; can stand alone but is far better having read Mairelon the Magician first. I don't think there are any plans to bring back Kim and Mairelon, which makes me kind of sad. I really love Kim as a character; she's very human, and refreshing, smart and wry. It was wonderful fun to spend time with her again, and I'm sure I'll revisit.