Reading level: High school
Once upon a time, Patricia Wrede (whom you may remember as the creator of the delightfully subversive Princess Cimorene in Dealing with Dragons) and Caroline Stevermer (who invented the College of Magics) decided it would be fun to write each other letters in character, as teenage girls in an Austen-ish England where magic is an everyday thing and you never know if the fellow you’re waltzing with is a marquis or a magician.
The result—Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot—is just as delightful as you’d expect. Cecelia, stuck at home in the country, writes to her cousin Kate, in London for her first season, about the mysterious goings-on with her neighbors (including a powerful magician) and recently discovered talent for magic, while Kate writes about the annoying Marquis who’s convinced her to pretend to be his fiancee in order to protect himself from a powerful sorceress’s evil plans. As their separate stories start to connect, Cecelia and Kate must cope with gentleman callers, purloined magic, too-strict relatives, unfortunate frocks, magical dangers, and more to achieve their happy endings.
Okay, yes, you could nitpick a few issues with this book. Because of the nature of epistolatory novels, some intriguing threads are left hanging. Kate and Cecelia have remarkably similar voices—which I think is especially interesting since they were written by two different authors. But how can you not love a book that includes passages like this:
Aunt Elizabeth and I called at the vicarage yesterday and spent a stimulating afternoon listening to the Reverend Fitzwilliam discourse on the Vanities of Society and the Emptiness of Worldly Pleasures. Aunt Elizabeth hung on every word, and we are to return and take tea on Thursday. I am determined to have the headache Thursday, if I have to hit myself with a rock to do it.
I mean, that’s delightful, no? So is the rest of the book. I suspect you’ll be glad you put it on your library list.
AMY SHARONY is the founder and editor-in-chief of home | school | life magazine. She's a pretty nice person until someone starts pluralizing things with apostrophes, but then all bets are off.