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Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot Paperback – September 1, 2004
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"A cult epistolary fantasy . . . Beguiling."--Kirkus Reviews
"Older girls who have outgrown Harry Potter will like their slightly rebellious natures, the magical twists and turns, and especially the humor and quick pace."--The San Diego Union-Tribune
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In short, I've loved everything of Wrede's I've encountered. Sorcery and Cecelia in particular.
It's an epistolary novel, where the story is told in letters between two friends and cousins when one (Kate) is hauled into London for her season while Cecy stays home and finds things are a bit more interesting than she expected.
This is basically the Regency world of Heyer, if Heyer had written a Regency world that included magic. Each author took a character, so you get a clear idea of each character.
It's also pretty funny, especially when the two get involved in magical doings with all sorts of consequences, including a couple of young men. As with Heyer's work (and Austen's) there are several romances, including one that is somewhat unexpected, a bit of kerfuffle and a happy ending.
Read it when you want a well written Regency or fantasy (or both) with a happy ending, engaging characters and a lot of fun along the way.
The concept is clever. The presentation is fun, with the women writing back and forth to each other. Their "voices" are distinct and their correspondence is very chatty at times. I like that part.
However, I feel as if the author tried to bring too many elements into the story. And, at times, I felt like I was reading a mix of irrelevant "news" and... well, kind of an information dump. It's not that the clues were dropped heavy-handed, but sometimes the context was a little jarring. It's difficult to explain, but -- for me, anyway -- those elements broke up the flow of the reading.
I recommend this book, anyway, as a clever approach... and sort of a mash-up of Regency and cozy mystery, with some metaphysical and Gothic elements thrown in.
Regency purists may flinch at the mix. Though this book is light, it's not Marion Chesney's style. It's a little more contemporary (modern) and kind of fun. However, it has a "first book" feeling to it, though the innovative concepts make up for the occasional disconnect in style.
Set in England in the year 1817, Sorcery and Cecelia is all about what is proper for young ladies, and the woes of finding a suitable husband, but for the thrill, magic is tossed in. Yes, in this England, magic is real. There is even a College of Wizards, and the wizards themselves stroll about in society like any other well-educated Englishman.
Overall, Sorcery was entertaining. It was light and engaging with quick humor. However, my overall sense after closing the book was lacking. I never cared for the characters, though I admit I liked Cecelia and Kate. The plot was rather limp, but as I learned, the plot was never the point. The evil characters were downright shallow with the go to `steal each other's magic' plot. And whenever anyone tried to explain a wizard's magic I was often confused. None of it ever made any sense and I found it very annoying how a person could simply be protected by magic by wearing an enchanted ring or necklace that the evil wizard could just as easily remove and do wrong doing.
It isn't a bad book, but it isn't great either.