What an enchanting book! (Pun intended.) I went into this not expecting anything too profound, and it perfectly met my expectations. It was light, fun, and had a wide cast of characters, sufficient conflict to keep the story interesting and my attention captured, and just a very fun aura about it all. Set in an alternate reality during England’s Regency age, this story has been described as a blend of Jane Austen and Diana Wynne Jones.
Two cousins Kate and Cecelia, write letters back and forth sharing their experiences attending parties, outwitting wizards, and in general setting chaos and confusion to rights.
I loved Cecelia and her very practical, “let’s take care of business” attitude. When faced with a problem, she immediately starts working to solve it, and trying to figure out what they can do about said problem instead of just worrying over it. I appreciated that, as this type of book could have easily turned into the two heroines just worrying to one another over events outside of their control, and never taking any active part. However, rest assured that is not the case. Both Cecelia and Kate are free agents, and are more than capable of taking control over an unruly situation and turning it to their benefit! They both reminded me of Emma Woodhouse in many ways.
I normally don’t like the letter-writing style or diary entries, however the authors made it work here and didn’t let things get too caught up in the back and forth response/replies between the characters. Some people complained about this, but personally I found it refreshing. I always find it annoying in letter-format style books that authors try to make it very realistic and capture the same type of back and forth, hopscotch nature of real letters. In this book each letter progressed the story and revealed more about the characters, while also giving the reader insight into the personality of the two narrators.
I enjoyed the mixture of magic and wizards, set in the very prim and proper regency England setting. They would be talking about dresses, parties, and proper etiquette one moment and launch into a description of a heated magical battle in the next. Another fun piece of this book was that I kept finding myself surprised, but never confused by the magical elements as they were woven into the story (which is hard to do). The added danger and complexity of regency England with wizards also added some more spice and danger, versus a typical regency novel which is a little bit lacking in action in that way.
The ending wrapped everything up well, there were no loose threads or anything that felt unfinished. It was also very satisfying. Again, nothing too groundbreaking, just thoroughly entertaining.
The main sets of characters are very similar, and it’s hard to distinguish between their voices. Despite being written by two different authors, Kate and Cecelia sound and act very similarly. Added to that, their love interests are also almost identical twins in terms of personality and behavior. While this is definitely and issue, somehow it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.
Books and authors fans will find it similar to:
If you like Diana Wynne Jones, Georgette Heyer, Connie Willis, Jane Austen etc. I think you’d really enjoy this book as well!
Books it reminds me of:
- Mairelon the Magician 1 & 2 by the same author.
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
- Emma by Jane Austen
- Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
- The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
Overall I give this 3.75 avocados!