Sorcery & Cecelia is an epistolary novel about two cousins. Kate is in London for her first season, while Cecelia stays in her home village. Strange things are happening in the immediate vicinity of both, and slowly but surely they become involved in uncovering a magical scheme.
There are a number of reasons why Sorcery and Cecelia is such a fun read.
Firstly, it is set in an alternative Regency era that has magic! In that sense, and in the Jane Austenesque language used from time to time, part of me wants to compare this to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but I also feel that would be unfair to both books. Susanna Clarke’s book has a much more detailed plot and world building (and I say that without detracting from Sorcery and Cecelia), while at the same time Sorcery and Cecelia is a lot lighter and offers more immediate fun (again, without detracting from the loveliness of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell).
Secondly, both Kate and Cecelia are wonderful characters. They are smart and funny (also a little bit naive at times, but in an endearing way), and they stand up for themselves and the people they love. Their characters outshine the others by far, which might be seen as a weakness of the novel. At the same time, the joy I found in both of them far exceeded my disappointment in some of the less developed characters and plot resolutions. The fact is, I can see how that would happen when you write a novel with two authors, deciding on little to nothing of the plot beforehand. Each writing as one character, it makes sense that these are the most developed, the most interesting and the ones you want to hug close to your heart.
Lastly, the writing and voice is plain fun. There were numerous moments when I was reading Sorcery and Cecelia with a big smile on my face. Take Kate, at one point:
Cecy, I do think it is unfair. People in novels are fainting all the time, and I never can, no matter how badly I need to. Instead, I stared at him for what seemed like years, with the stupidest expression on my face, I’m sure, beacuse I felt stupid. For I couldn’t imagine why he would say such an extraordinary thing. Finally I realized he was waiting for me to say something.
I said, “I can’t imagine why you should say such an extraordinary thing.”
There it is: Sorcery and Cecelia combines a humorous tone, a slight mocking of social (gender!) conventions, a love for regency and fantasy, with endearing characters. Did I mention it is a fun book? (I already edited out half of my mentions of “fun” in the above paragraphs). I was not blown away, this is not my new favourite book, but it is definitely a wonderful and lovely read that is well, um, a lot of fun.
Even better: there is a second, and I think a third (?) installment* of the adventures of Kate and Cecelia to look forward to. I have to be honest: I am not running to the book store to order these immediately. But it good to know that I will have some more comfort reading to look forward to in the future.