Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Completed 12/22/2013, Reviewed 12/31/2013
Sorcery & Cecelia is a wonderfully fun young adult novel written in an epistolary form which I don’t think I’ve ever encountered. The authors wrote the story by actually writing letters to each other in the voice of their respective character. According to their afterward, they did this as a game. The result is a delightful romp with young Victorian women who dabble in a little magic. Some reviewers call this a cross between Jane Austen and Harry Potter. I think it’s maybe more of a Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for teens. But neither comparison does justice in conveying the amount of fun you’ll have with this book.
The story is about Cecy and Kate, two young cousins writing to each other bemoaning how they are separated for the Season. Kate is in
London while Cecy is still in the
country. While at an affair, Kate
stumbles into a magical garden and is mistaken by an old woman to be someone named
Thomas under disguise. The woman invites
Kate to have some chocolate from a gloriously blue chocolate pot. Normally clumsy, she spills the chocolate and
watches the splashes eat through her dress.
She narrowly escapes this scene and writes to her cousin about it.
The strange incident leads Cecy and Kate into a mystery with roots in both
and in the country. The two of them
unravel the clues through their letters, discovering a deadly plot involving
two evil wizards, the “odious” Thomas, his friend James, and that dratted
chocolate pot, all while navigating beneath the radar of their magic-hating
guardians, Aunts Elizabeth and Charlotte.
I can’t help but use adjectives like wonderful, fun, and delightful to describe this book. Cecy and Kate are wonderful characters, vividly drawn through their letters and antics. There are a lot of fun little gags, like the oft-referenced incident with the goat and a scene involving one aunt and “the vapors”, which all take place in this manners-conscious Victorian setting. And the humor adds to the pace and excitement as the two cousins make their way through the dangers of dealing with the evil Sir Hillary and Miranda.
This book is a great read. It’s not deep or heavy, but it’s irrepressibly fun, exciting, and fast-paced. I discovered this book when it was offered but rejected as the recent fantasy selection for our SF book club. Between the title and the book club leader’s brief description, it sounded fun, and I wasn’t disappointed. Four stars.