A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis
|A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis
|Category: Confident Readers
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
|Summary: Jane Austen meets Tiffany Aching! An irresistible romantic comedy/fantasy set in Regency England.
|Date: August 2010
|Publisher: Templar Publishing
The very first sentence of this charming and funny book sets the tone. Twelve-year-old Kat is setting off, dressed as a boy, to earn her fortune, pay back her brother's gambling debts, and save her two sisters from having to marry rich old men. Fortunately for Kat, she is stopped before she gets to the end of the front garden. All the trappings of Regency romance are here: fainting heroines, evil stepmothers, handsome young men with no prospects, and even a highwayman. But in this, the first book of a trilogy, there is something extra: Kat's late mother was a witch.
Kat is a rather unruly young lady who has earned the undying mistrust of her stepmother because she climbs trees, cuts her hair short and speaks her mind with an honesty most Austen heroines only dream of. It is fortunate the grasping and insensitive woman is not there to see her escape from the wrath of vicious Lady Fotherington by punching her on the nose! She is a charming heroine, feisty and reckless, utterly loyal to her family and far more intelligent than most of the people around her. She learns that Step-mama is forcing her older sister into marriage with the cold and haughty Sir Neville, and that Elissa, who has read way too many Gothic novels for her own good, does not object because she sees herself as a tragic heroine. Papa is useless, being a meek and gentle man who spends his life reading, so it is, quite clearly up to Kat to save the family. Angeline, her other sister, is doing what she can by using her beloved mother's magic books, but so far the only result has been a love-sick and clearly enchanted young man wandering about their home proposing to her several times a day. And then Kat makes a momentous discovery: she has inherited her mother's talent – not for witchcraft, but for a more powerful magic wielded by a small group of Guardians who work in secret to protect the world from evil.
There are many delightful aspects to this book. The stark contrast between Kat's determined refusal to be manipulated by any of the people who surround her and the refined country-house setting is truly funny. And her portrayal as the youngest sister is a joy: she is constantly left out by her older siblings who whisper and plot in secret, and insist on ordering her around as they did when she was a baby. Elissa and Angeline practically raised her, but nonetheless Kat keenly resents her exclusion from their grown-up, late-night conversations. One wonders if the author is the youngest child in her family, so vivid are her descriptions of Kat's feelings.
The magic mirror Kat discovers is a master touch: no matter how hard she tries to get rid of it, it always returns to her hand, and is not averse to burning her for her pains. It is almost a character in its own right. In fact, many of the characters in this book are well-developed, with personalities and traits which distinguish them clearly from each other. Elissa is impractical and dreamy, and lives life like a novel, while Angeline is sharp-tongued and intelligent. Sir Neville is all that a villain should be, and Mr Gregson is highly ambiguous. Are his motives for wanting to be Kat's tutor good or evil? Only the young male lovers lack a little solidity, and the fact that one character does not recognise his brother stretches credulity somewhat. Nonetheless, this is an excellent book, and as it is the first of a trilogy, there is the promise of more reading pleasure to come.
Thank you very much to the publishers for sending us this book.
Further reading suggestion: Fans of historical fantasy will enjoy The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric, and The Alchemist and the Angel by Joanne Owen. And for feisty heroines in the present day, you need go no further than Kirsty Jenkins in the charming book How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant by Elen Caldecott.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.