Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Book Review: Sorcery and Cecelia

I just finished one of the best books I've read in a while. (Other than Lord of the Rings and Bleak House and maybe one or two others that I'm forgetting.)
This book is written in an epistolary style, set in Regency England, but with magic. And one of my favorite childhood authors co-authored it! Naturally, when I heard about this, I told my library strongly that they must buy it. They refused. Undaunted, I forced them to get an interlibrary loan of it. (Apparently this is a costly, rigorous process. Pah. They get paid with taxes for the very purpose of advancing the needs of readers.)
Having secured the novel, I proceeded to devour it in the course of a few days. Needless to say, I liked it excessively. The story is about two cousins, Kate and Cecelia, who are separated by the former going to London. In addition to participating in the multi-faceted social structures of the time, matching gloves to gowns and practicing their stitches, they also have to maneuver through magical difficulties.

In my opinion, the dedication said it all, even before I started the thing. Paraphrasing:
To J. R. R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer [and somebody else I didn't recognize], who have all, in their various ways, inspired this book.

Now, this is a lighthearted, recently written fiction book. The authors started writing letters to each other (Ms. Wrede as Cecelia and Ms. Stevermer as Kate, respectively) purely for fun. Bref, It is not the best quality book you will ever read. The romances are not detailed love stories about how each character grows and discovers each flaw and quirk in the other (though there is some of that, of course.)
But I hardly feel that it is meant to be a book of prodigious quality. It would be the outside of enough to make an epistolary novel set in Regency England with magic be a serious work, or one that conveys great meaning; and when the two coauthors have an agreement never to discuss plot, that part of the story is not going to be the most complex work of art you've ever read.
The book was reminiscent of Howl's Moving Castle, another lighthearted sort-of-old-fashioned story + magic.
There is one (perhaps two) use of d--n, and one (perhaps two) reference to an illegitimate child. Besides this, there was no objectional content — and I here include stupid dialogue, completely unrealistic scenes, obviously forced situations, and characters that make no sense, as "objectional." This book had none of that. I'd say that's a pretty good book, for today's YA fiction!

Now if only the library would get a hold of the sequels.
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