Monday, November 9, 2015

Literary PSA: Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

Long ago I decided to start a NEW THING: Literary Public Service Announcements. Essentially, I'm going to pimp a book that I read before I started blogging, but that I want to foist upon the world due to its high levels of sheer awesomeness for the good of the public and all that jazz. Instead of me just telling people over and over that they should read something "JUST BECAUSE!!!1!", I've decided to actually explain in a more eloquent fashion just why my favorite books are my favorites.

Last time on Literary Public Service Announcements: Tamora Pierce

I first read this book a bajillion--okay, fifteen, but that's basically a bajilliaon--years ago and remembered nothing about it, which makes sense, since I was, like, nine. I don't think it was the right book for me then, either, since at age nine I don't think i was quite ready for all the dry Regency goodness this book has to offer.

But I've been in a terrible reading slump recent, which has not been helped by NaNoWriMo, let me tell you, and nothing was grabbing me. Nothing. So I decided... you know, maybe I should look at the 2983473 books I own that I haven't read. Maybe I should turn to the backlist books for guidance, and read something entirely no-pressure, with  no deadlines or release dates. No nothing. Something romantic, and fun, and full of all the tropes and treasures I love best.

And lo, I spotted Sorcery & Cecelia, which I have owned since the tender age of, like, nine.

Oh God. Sorcery & Cecelia. This book. This miraculous book. It's a delightful treat, a gift from the universe, and exactly what the book doctor ordered.

First, a little context on my reading tastes.

Blah blah cliche Austenite, blah blah will read anything about ladies in crinolines and men in breeches, blah blah if it has British people who say things like "Caroline does stick her nose in things quite dreadfully" or "One never can have enough to say about tea, dearest" then I am 3000% on board

Good news: If you also share my tastes, PLUS YOU LIKE MAGICKS, then get thineself to the bookstore and pick up a copy of Sorcery & Cecelia posthaste.

Better news: even if you're not a Jane Austen devotee,  that's cool. Do you like ladies full of sense who go about solving their own problems when the foolish men they love muck it up as per usual? Do you like alternate history PLUS MAGICKS? Do you like epistolary novels, history, wizards, curses, and the idea of an enchanted chocolate pot?

Look, even if you said no, I want you to read Sorcery & Cecelia. I don't care.

One of the things I love best about this book is that it was written using the letter game. In other words, the two authors--Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer--each picked one of the two heroines and wrote the novel by writing each other letters in the voice of the protagonists, letting the plot flow organically between them. Which means the two voices are distinct and divine and independently hilarious.

Kate and Cecelia, cousins and best friends, exchange letters in an alternate 1817 England where young men run the risk of turning into trees and beaux may be stolen by young ladies gifted in sorcery. Kate has gone off to London to be launched upon the Ton (aka hit up a hella bunch of parties and maybe snag a husband, for those of you who haven't fallen down a Georgette Heyer rabbit hole before). Cecelia has stayed behind in Essex, sure that country life will be very boring without Kate: until the mysterious Dorothea comes to town, and all the men of the county start acting very peculiar. And then there's the strange woman who tries to kill Kate with a magic cup of chocolate. 

And then there's James, who is very gloomy and very bad at skulking, and there's Thomas, the Mysterious Marquis, both of whom Have Secrets and are Determined Not to Let Our Fair Heroines Know and Therefore Be Endangered. Kate and Cecy, of course have No Time For This Shit and set about saving the day.

This book sparkles. It's so full of life, and charming, and vivid and hilarious. The heroines are so fiendishly clever. Cecelia is ferociously sensible. I love they way they're always stepping in when their love interests bungle everything, and I ship the ships ever so much, and god, I love this book. it's an instant mood lifter and a classic for a reason. 

Not in alternate magical 1817 England, where everything is perfectly delightful and ships bicker and battle evil wizards together and engage in all manner of things which are Decidedly Improper. I do have to say that one of the climaxes (there being Kate's storyline and Cecy's) has a bit of a... well, less climactic finish, but this was also written in the eighties, and I guess ends with a bit less of a bang than I expect from modern YA fantasies. That's not to say it's not the most satisfying little book ever, and that i didn't press it to my heart and squeal at the ceiling when i finished, because I did. And the best thing is, there are three of them! There's a sequel, and then there's a third, and I'm so excited because all these years I never knew. And now I have to get myself a copy of The Grand Tour posthaste, so I can hang out with Cecy and Kate some more.


  1. Oh my gosh I love this book and I never see anyone talk about it! It's so underrated. I haven't read this in years...maybe it's time for a re-read!

  2. Well, you sold me the book on the very first paragraph because I share you love for all things British and proper and ladies getting shit done, so reading the rest of your review/PSA was just an exercise on getting excited and cursing my lack of funds to go buy the book right this moment! I'll just have to wait till the end of the month, but it will be MINE!!

  3. You are skilled in the art of making me want things.

  4. So, basically, what you're telling me is that I need to find a copy of this book IMMEDIATELY. Gillian, it sounds DELIGHTFUL! I honestly think I'd love this one based on all the reasons you've shared so... Yeah. It may just have to happen.

  5. I have to get the sequels!!! Lindsey (@bringmybooks) recommended this to me a couple years ago and it was DELIGHTFUL like you said! I never got around to the other books but now I think I should. I love that they wrote letters back and forth and let the plot develop, that's so risky but interesting! And yes Regency shenanigans with magic is most definitely my cup of tea. You should look up Courtship & Curses :)


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