If you have been in a book store lately, you have probably seen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or one of its sequels. I have not read any of these books because I suck and I don’t wanna. However, if you think you might enjoy a Regency novel with a twist, may I recommend Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer?
I owned Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, for about two years before I actually read it. I picked it up because I have much love for Patricia C. Wrede, but I was used to her Dragon books, and after reading the first page I decided that I wasn’t in the mood for a Jane Austin-y book. So it sat on the shelf for a few years until I found myself uninspired by everything else I owned and decided to give it a try. Apparently this time I was in the right frame of mind, because I devoured it. And then I went out and found the two follow-up books and devoured them too.
All three books, Sorcery and Cecelia, The Grand Tour*, and The Mislaid Magician, are written as a series of letters. Wrede writes as Cecelia, and Stevermer writes as her cousin Kate. In the afterword they reveal that the first book was actually the product of the two of them playing the Letter Game. Wrede wrote the first letter, setting the time, place, character names and the reason they were writing to each other. In this case, Kate had gone off to London for her debut season and Cecelia was made to stay home, possibly because of an incident with a goat. They had not discussed any plot points or anything about how the story would go, they just made it up one letter at a time. When they were done, they looked at the pile of letters and said, “We have a book here.” They went back and cleaned it up a little bit, but as Wrede says in the afterword, “The finished version isn’t really that different from the letters we exchanged during that hectic six months; some things are clearer (we hope), and a few things were dropped… We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.” After reading this, of course I had to go back and read the whole thing again. It’s even better when you realize that it was unplanned. I am slightly in awe that these two writers created this awesome book as something fun to do in their spare time.
In Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Cecelia and Kate each fall in love while learning more about the world of magic and foiling the nefarious plotting of some powerful and devious magicians. In book two, The Grand Tour, Cecelia, Kate, and their new husbands discover a plot to take over the world while traveling around Europe on their honeymoon tour. Since they are together most of the time, The Grand Tour is written as a series of diary entries on Cecelia’s part. Kate’s part is a series of excerpts from her deposition about their role in foiling the world takeover. The third and final book, The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years After, takes place 10 years later (who’d have guessed?). The couples have settled down and had children, but they still do some work for the Crown as magical investigators and regulators. It is a wonderful conclusion to the trilogy. All the loose ends are tied up, but just enough is left up in the air that the reader can imagine what might happen next if you’re into that kind of thing. And actually, there is kind of a fourth book written by Stevermer on her own. Magic Below Stairs isn’t really a sequel; it is about a young orphan who gets hired as the new bootboy at Kate’s country house. It is a stand-alone story with some “Hey, I know that guy!” moments.
They may sound kind of odd, but if you are a fantasy fan who enjoys some Jane Austen, or a Jane Austen fan who would like to branch out into fantasy, I can almost guarantee you will enjoy these books.
*In the interest of accuracy, I must tell you that the full title of The Grand Tour is The Grand Tour: Being a Revelation of Matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, Including Extracts from the Intimate Diary of a Noblewoman and the Sworn Testimony of a Lady of Quality, but I’m not writing all that more than once.