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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sorcery & Cecelia

Title: Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: being a correspondence between two Young Ladies of Quality regarding various Magical Scandals in London and the Country
Author: Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Pages: 326
Rating: @@@@@
Price: $7 (about)

Main Characters
The loveable main characters of this novel are Kate and Cecelia, cousins in a post-Napoleon England where magic is real.
Kate is in London, going through her first Season as a Young Lady of Quality, and looking for a future husband. In her letters, Kate complains about her too-beautiful sister, Georgina, and the Mysterious Marquis, but uses her brain to get her out of trouble.
Cecy, on the other hand, is disappointed about being left at home. She’s soon appreciative, though, when it proves to be just as interesting. Her developing magical talent is a big help later on.
Kate and Cecy are both headstrong and stubborn, but I find Kate as the mastermind and escapist – due to her skillful lying – and Cecelia as the one who gets them into trouble. Both are also proper Englishwomen, constantly keeping up appearances and worrying about finding husbands.
Two more main characters are James Tarleton and Thomas, the “Mysterious Marquis” of Schofield. These friends cause trouble for Kate and Cecy, unintentionally involving them in a subtle magical warfare. James is clumsily attempting to be ‘sneakily’ following Cecelia around, though he does a horrible job of it. Thomas is desperate to get Miranda Griscomb off his back, so asks Kate to pretend to be engaged to him. The boys, often referred to in the letters as ‘odious,’ are quite impossible when it comes to proper etiquette, so it’s up to Kate and Cecy to teach them something.
The villains are ambitious Sir Hilary Bedrick (yes, he’s a guy), and the scheming Miranda Griscomb, who wants her daughter to marry Thomas.

The Story
Kate has left Cecy alone to suffer their strict Aunt Elizabeth (better than Aunt Charlotte, but at least Kate is in London), sure to die of boredom. But in both London and Rushton Manor, trouble is brewing quite literally. One of the very first parties in London ends for Kate with a nearly scalding incident with a chocolate pot and Miranda Griscomb, who somehow mistook her for Thomas Schofield, the Mysterious Marquis.
Cecelia finds herself dealing mainly with Sir Hilary, a neighboring magic-practiser. She finds a charm-bag under her brother Oliver’s bed, which causes many questions throughout the family. Soon, James Tarleton gets nosy, and ends up being choked by a ribbon – just barely saved by Cecelia’s small interest in magic. Dorothea, Miranda’s stepdaughter, is hanging about, making every eligible – and several ineligible – boy fall in love with her.
Back in London, Thomas is anxious to get away from Dorothea, who has come to have her Season. He knows that if he stays near her long enough, he’ll fall in love too, because Miranda placed a charm on her stepdaughter. In his desperation, he asks Kate to marry him, supposedly because she’s the only one who isn’t fool enough to take him seriously. He tells her not to break off the engagement no matter what he says or does, for he knows he’ll be weak against the love charm. Several weeks later, he begs her to cry off, so he can marry his beloved Dorothea, while at the same time Dorothea begs Kate to help arrange a marriage – between Dorothea and a boy named Robert. What’s a girl to do?
And what is the matter with Sir Hilary’s chocolate pot? Thomas, for one, is eager to get his hands on it, while Sir Hilary and Miranda are doing all they can to keep it to themselves. Will Cecy be able to get out of this without Kate’s clever bluffing?
The only question I have left after reading this spectacular novel is this: What on earth was the incident with the goat?!?

The Book & The Authors
This is, to put it simply, the most enjoyable book I’ve read in quite a long while. It seemed as if the authors had great fun writing it. That’s because they did. Several years ago, this book began as a game. It’s called the letter game; two people take turns writing ‘in character’ letters – letters written from an imaginary character’s point of view. In this case, it was between Patricia C. Wrede – who wrote as Cecelia – and Caroline Stevermer – who wrote as Kate.
I recently had the privilege to meet one of the authors, Patricia Wrede. She spoke at a conference in Baltimore called Books for the Beast, for librarians, teachers, and teens. In the morning, she gave a speech about her books, with a short Q & A session at toward the end. But I was one of a lucky few who was able to actually meet her afterwards, in our book discussion groups. She was in charge of my fantasy group, and instead of talking about the books, we were able to talk to her about what she’s written, what plans she has for future books, and other fun questions.
Ms. Wrede said that this book was the most fun of all her books to write, primarily because she didn’t originally intend it to be a book. Only after the letters were written, the game finished, did she and Caroline Stevermer realize it was publishable.