Throwback Book Review: Cecelia and Kate by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

Have you ever wanted to read a series which combines the magical humor of Howl’s Moving Castle and the romantic Regency of Jane Austen? Well, if so, this series is for you!

I fell in love with this series just around the time the third book was published (so around 2006 or 2007), which means I was probably only thirteen when I read it. As a young teen, I read these books dozens of times, and yet I haven’t picked up any of them in nearly a decade. So, in the last couple weeks, I reread all three of the books.

For those who have never heard of this trilogy, it is set in Regency Era Europe (so, around 1800-1825), following the adventures of cousins Kate and Cecelia. But this is also a world where magic exists. Wrede and Stevermer (the two authors) wrote this book by playing the Letter Game (here’s a Wikipedia article about the game if you’re curious to learn more). It’s pretty much a game where two people write each other letters under the guise of a persona. In this case, Wrede wrote Cecelia’s letters and Stevermer wrote Kate’s letters. And so the story jumps back and forth between the letters. While I enjoyed these books even as an adult, I found I noticed so many more things I didn’t notice as a young teen.

Release: 1988, 2004, 2006

Synopses: Book One (Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot): Set in early 1817, Kate is off to London for her season, while her cousin Cecelia is stuck at home. But trouble finds these two girls easily as Kate gets caught up with an odious wizard and the witch trying to kill him and Cecelia stumbles across a charm-bag under her brother’s bed and a strange spell placed on her new friend Dorothea, making her irresistible. Naturally, magic and trouble ensures.

Book Two (The Grand Tour): Kate and Cecelia are back, this time setting out on their honeymoons together across Europe. That is, until a mysterious intruder, dangerous magic, and extremely bumpy roads seek to disrupt their perfect trip.

Book Three (The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After): Set in 1828, we find Kate and Cecelia now with multiple children and living happily. However, into their lap yet again falls trouble in the form of a night prowler, a mute girl, and a missing magician.

Review

The first book, by far, is my favorite. Not only does it have more playfulness than the rest, but the pacing and plot is more interesting. Saying that, all three of these books are enjoyable. It’s strange to me that in recent years books set in a magical Victorian era (like the Soulless series by Gail Carriger) have really gotten popular. But this book stands out against the rest. It is the perfect combination of propriety and society of the times with a dash of romance and magic.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously, instead leading the reader on a fun adventure. I happen to love books set in the Victorian era (or Regency era, which is only about twenty years before the Victorian era), but many of the ones written for young adults are modern books in the guise of Victorian society. Not this one. This one spends as much time expanding the world of English society as it does in examining the magic of the world. So often, I read YA novels set in the Victorian Era where the magic detracts from the society. Characters act modern, dialogue feels strange, etc. But not with this book.

Saying that, I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t a bit critical. And one of my biggest criticisms of these books is the development of the romance. By the end of the first book, both Kate and Cecelia are engaged (Kate to Thomas, a magician marquis, and Cecelia to Thomas’s close from James). But in the first book we rarely see the couples building their relationships. Every interaction they have is to progress the plot, and not for them to get to know each other. In the second book, after they marry, I was hoping to see more of a development in their communication and understanding of each other. But though they have a few cute scenes together, I didn’t see any type of closeness between either couple. In the final book, since they have been married for ten years now, they act like old married couples, as they know each other so well. But where is that middle part, between the initial attraction and old married life? I felt the relationships were put secondary to the plot.

Saying that, the plots are so much fun that I can almost forgive the lack of growth in the characters. There are so many interesting magical elements throughout the books. In the second book, they learn how to knit messages to each other (yes, literally knit in messages within whatever they are knitting). In the first book, we have Thomas accidentally using a chocolate pot as his magic focus and then losing it.

There are also an array of interesting characters behind the main four. Thomas’s mother, Kate and Cecy’s aunts, friends they meet, their servants, etc. They are all equally hilarious and fun.

I was happy to find I still enjoyed reading these books even as an adult. Certainly I preferred certain aspects of the book now that I didn’t then, and vice versa, but in the end I would still happily reread these books over and over.

Have you heard of this series? What is your favorite book which combines magic and history? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

13 thoughts on “Throwback Book Review: Cecelia and Kate by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

      1. I bought a book for my sis a few months ago so I could read it too. Lol! ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. Have you read it? I adored that book. It has all the makings of a great story: history, romance, great literary references… it was co-authored by the woman who wrote the Ivy & Bean series (one of my favorite early chapter book series). It’s a book I could read over and over again.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve never read any books that combines fantasy/magic with history. It sounds interesting! But I think it’s really difficult to write because of historical details. Somehow it reminds me that in China we have a genre called 武侠小说(wu xia xiao shuo), which means Kung Fu novels. It also combines supernatural power ( Kung Fu) and history background together.

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    1. It’s really interesting to see books combine two such different genres. It is similar to 武侠小说 novels. It reminds me of 西游记 (xi you ji) (Journey to the West). It tells of gods and mythology, but it also talks about real history. It’s interesting to see an author twist history into something totally different!

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      1. Exactly! I’m fascinated by the idea of combining different genres that seem irrelevant. It requires imagination. And you mentioned a great example! 西游记 is definitely a book filled with different elements.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Wow, it’s awesome! In Chinese it’s titled 射雕英雄传(she diao ying xiong zhuan).I used to stay up late to read this novel.
            Jin Yong’s novels are difficult to translate into English because there are so many things related to Chinese culture and the complicated fight scenes. Kudos to the translator! Have fun reading 武侠小说!😄

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  2. I just discovered these a few years ago and loved them! I agree the first is the strongest. The epistolary format was so well done, it’s a shame more authors don’t use it these days.
    I also enjoyed Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix, another magic Regency adventure story. And I’m always on the lookout for more of this kind; it’s like my two favorite things rolled into one!

    Liked by 1 person

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