One of the pleasures of reading is rereading, curling up with a book you know you love and preparing to reenter the world waiting inside. There’s waiting for the good bits, quoting some of the lines, and being surprised by the details you didn’t notice last time. For many books, rereading is also comfort reading, a mini-vacation taken elsewhere.
One of these books is Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. Set in Regency England, it is told in the form of letters between two cousins as one goes to London for her first Season and one stays home in Essex. Both meet up with strange magical happenings that they must untangle, and both meet with attractive but not terribly informative men who are also tangled in the magicians’ plots.
A chocolate pot is involved, as are dresses, gloves, dancing, and plenty of gossip. This last involves names familiar to anyone who has ever had a fondness for Regency Romances. Lady Jersey anyone? There are beautiful ballrooms, stewed tea (the kitchen is too far away), and delicious soups. And there is magic of a singularly nasty sort. Also, and the list probably clued you in to this, it’s funny.
Both Cecelia and Kate are very practical in their approach to magic, looking on it as something to be studied and worked out. They take a tangled and overlapping set of plots by two powerful magicians and sort matters out between them on the basis of good sense, friendship, and clear communication (between the two of them, at any rate).
To Wrede and Stevermer’s credit, while one of the men is called “The Mysterious Marquis,” neither James nor Thomas (the aforementioned Marquis) falls into the “broody, unreliable, and yet strangely compelling” category. When they fail to let Cecelia or Kate know things, it is not because they are feeling particularly obscure or like testing anyone’s virtue. They have much more human reasons like believing the relevant information is someone else’s secret or not seeing why it might be useful to tell someone only recently met. On occasion, it is also to protect either Cecelia or Kate, which is annoying (and Kate and Cecy say so), but understandable.
Sorcery and Cecelia is a nice, light read for an evening or so, and at just under two-hundred pages the paperback fits easily into a purse or backpack. If, that is, you still read paper books. If you’re an e-reader sort, well, it will fit nicely there, too!
There’s really nothing else out there quite like Sorcery and Cecelia, not even the two sequels (which are still quite fun). I keep looking, though, and I keep rereading.
Or, all three can be found in one volume, at least as an e-book: The Cecelia and Kate Novels: Sorcery & Cecelia, The Grand Tour, and The Mislaid Magician.