Flashback Fridays: A lady and a magician . . .
Posted by Stephanie Whelan
You’re a street thief turned the legitimate ward of one of London’s foremost magicians. You’ve been set to the task of learning magic under his tutelage . . . but you’re also required to become a respectable part of the upper crust society. That particular challenge may prove far harder to succeed with than the magic lessons!
Do you remember:
Magician’s Ward by Patricia C. Wrede (Tor Books, c1997)
For those of you familiar with it, this is indeed the second book in Patricia Wrede’s duology about Kit and Mairelon. I picked it rather than the first because this is the book I read first . . . and it’s the first one that introduced me to the notion of Regency fantasy. I didn’t really know what I was getting into at the time and it took some research and rereads to really understand some of the references.
The main story is easy enough to relate to. Kit, a girl who has grown up on the street, disguised as a boy and working as a thief has been adopted by her friend Mairelon (or Richard Merrill as he’s more formally known). Now formally learning magic and learning the ways of Society, she’s frustrated and struggling a bit. The former thief chafes at the restrictions Mairelon’s Aunt has put upon her, and hates all the “proper behavior” she’s supposed to abide by. But these frustrations soon give way to a mystery when a thief breaks into the house and Kit catches him in the act. It seems someone is after a book from the library–but which one? And why? A mixture of magical hijinks, society mores and flouting of the same, and a good dollop of romance make this a delightful read.
Patricia Wrede is a dab hand at regency, and while I’ve been told hands down that I’ve got to try Georgette Heyer for historical regency romance (sans magic), I tend to think Patricia Wrede does an excellent job of capturing the flavor of the historical setting while writing about a version of history where magic is entirely real. Kit’s down-to-earth nature rarely wavers–even fashion tends to be more of a nightmare than an adventure for her. So often I’ve found teen heroines who are entirely fascinated by clothing and appearance even if they’re smashingly kick butt or deadly in some way. Kit may have to put up with fashion, but she’s not particularly absorbed by it. She’s more interested in tracking down the mystery of the thief and finding the person who’s been kidnapping street level magic users all over London. So as every tries to train and introduce Kit into society, Kit is really ready to dart off at a moment’s notice to track a clue or investigate some lead.
The ending is most satisfying if you like a good romance and a good mystery resolution (along with plenty of magic). The previous book in the duology, Mairelon the Magician (c1991) runs a bit more silly and comedy of errors style of things. I don’t care for it as much as the second book, but it’s the book that sets up what happens later on, so I can’t complain all that much. Both books have been repackaged into one reissued book: A Matter of Magic the retitled duology has caused more than a little confusion for those who thought it was a new Mairelon story.
Honestly, given the lightweight romance and story, this works well as tween fiction and it’s a great go-to for those young readers looking for something more romantic without being too mature. It’s also the kind of romance I rather like–where both parties are not quite aware of the feelings they have, but the readers are completely clued in to the truth of the matter. It’s interesting, it’s exciting, it’s funny and overall just the kind of cozy read I need sometimes when the world all seems a little too harsh and overwhelming.
What are your favorite cozy reads? Comments welcome!
About Stephanie WhelanI'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.
Posted on September 6, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged Authors, Books, Children's Literature, fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, reviews, Tween Fiction, Urban Fantasy. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.