Renegade Magic

by Stephanie Burgis
ages: 10+
First sentence: “it was a truth universally acknowledged that my brother, Charles, was a hopeless gamester, a ridiculous oversleeper, and the one sibling too lazy to take part in any family arguments, no matter how exasperating our sisters might have been (and usually were).”
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Others in the series: Kat, Incorrigible

In the beginning, everything seems to be going well for Kat and her family: it’s her oldest sister’s wedding day, her other sister is on the verge of being engaged, her brother is managing to stay out of trouble, and Kat is going to be inducted into the Guardian Order.

Then Lady Fotherington — Kat’s deceased mother’s nemesis — butts in and ruins everything.  Aside from the wedding, everything is in shambles: the Stephenson’s reputation (which was precarious to start with), Angelica’s almost-engagement, and most relevant to Kat, her standing with the Guardians.

The only thing to do is go to Bath. (Of course!) Where the Stephensons barge in on some well-to-do second-cousins, make a spectacle of themselves, get involved in some nefarious pagan rituals, and somehow save England from traitors who were going to sell information to France (it’s the Napoleonic wars, after all). All in a week’s work.

All the set-up out of the way, this book was a lot more fast-paced than the first one in the series. Kat is still a heroine with a tendency to get into trouble, in spite of her stepmother’s attempts to make a lady out of her. Her father is still mostly absent, except for a tender moment near the end of the book. She makes a new friend out of her cousin, someone who is drawn to the unrespectable nature of being a witch. There’s a bit of a love story: her older sister manages, in the attempt to thwart their stepmother, to make a complete mess of the situation (there’s a nice undertone that 12 year olds are SO much smarter than their 16 year old sisters that I think that C would like).  And while I liked this one as much as the first, I found myself feeling (as I so often do with historical fiction these days) that Kat is very much a 21st century heroine. That, and I felt the whole pagan Minerva rituals to be a bit out of place. Not that it was bad, but that it just didn’t completely gel the way the first one did.

That said, I’ll keep reading the series, because it’s a lot of fun.

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.) 

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