Sorcery and Cecelia
The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Sorcery and Cecelia is a young adult Regency fantasy novel, somewhat in the style of Patricia C. Wrede's Mairelon the Magician books. It is the story of two young women, cousins, one who travels to London for The Season, and one who stays at the country estate (much to her disappointment). As it happens magic is present in their world, but this is not a story about how exciting it would be if magic were real; it is a piece of historical fiction that just happens to include some magic, and the England of their world is very close to the England of our world.

One of the more notable aspects of the book is that it was written as a letter game, in which the two authors alternated writing chapters in the guise of letters between the characters. The story was created letter by letter, without the authors making any plan for how the story was to develop, and without conferring about the story during its writing. This worked surprisingly well. If one didn't know, one might not realize that there were two authors, and that neither knew what the next chapter might hold.

One effect of this writing style is that two separate but interconnected stories emerge, and as it happens, they have very similar characters -- two strong leading characters, rather more headstrong than is appropriate for girls of that era; two brooding and uncommunicative leading men; two evil villains; two controlling dowager aunts. Each character has his or her own personality, but it is clear that both of the authors are writing their own stories about the same character set.

Another effect is that the story is quite gossipy, as both authors throw out interesting tidbits without knowing which will be chosen and followed up on. We get a lot of character and setting development in the first few letters, as the authors clarify what the world will be like. The story really starts to take shape once Kate, the cousin who traveled to London, stumbles on a hidden magical garden, where an evil sorceress attempts to poison her (using an enchanted chocolate pot). Kate manages to escape, and Kate and Cecy slowly start to unravel a sinister plot that happens to envelope a surprising number of their friends and acquaintances. Along the way many society dances are attended, dresses bought, and aunts thwarted.

I found the story rather on the calm, even mundane, side, but very readable due to good writing and amusing characters (rather than exciting events). This may be because I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, and am used to flashier magic and fast-moving adventures. In my mind this is more a regency novel than a fantasy novel, but I suspect that many would see it the other way around. Unlike many Regency novels, it is barely a romance at all, although, of course, there is a happy ending involving various people discovering true love. I recommend it, although I'm not entirely sure who I recommend it too... Anyone who is looking for a nice read, I guess.

The Cecelia and Kate series continues on with two other books, The Grand Tour (or The Purloined Coronation Regalia) and The Mislaid Magician (or Ten Years After).

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