So when I decided to reread Sorcery & Cecelia, I knew that I wanted to reread the other two books in the series as well – The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician. However, I discovered that there was, in fact, another book – Magic Below Stairs, which is written by Caroline Stevermer alone. I already owned The Grand Tour, but splurged and bought the other two used. Because I obviously need more books in my life.
So in Sorcery & Cecelia, Cecelia and her cousin, Kate, correspond while Kate is having her first Season in London and Cecelia is still at home in the countryside: the book is comprised of their letters back and forth. In The Grand Tour OR The Purloined Coronation Regalia (“Being a revelation of matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, including extracts from the intimate diary of a Noblewoman and the sworn testimony of a Lady of Quality”), Cecelia and Kate are together pretty much the whole time. The book begins with their double wedding, and then follows the newlyweds as they meander about Europe for their wedding trip – and, of course, get entangled in a magical mystery along the way!
While it wouldn’t make sense for the book to be written in the same epistolary style as the first, the authors manage to recapture part of that essence by having Cecelia’s parts written as “The deposition of Mrs. James Tarelton to the Joint Representatives of the British Ministry of Magic, the War Office, and the Foreign Office,” while Kate’s are excerpts from her diary (“The Commonplace Book of the Most Honorable the Marchioness of Schofield”).
Overall, the first person perspective works well for moving the story along. The voices of Cecelia and Kate are distinct (probably because they’re written by two different people, I suppose), and I quite enjoyed seeing how much they both enjoy being married. The magical mystery gets a tad complicated but is mostly resolved in the end. All in all, a very entertaining read – I do love the humor throughout.
In the third book, a decade has passed. Cecelia and Kate have settled contentedly into married life, which now involves several children. They are still the best of friends – as are their husbands. The Mislaid Magician OR Ten Years After (“Being the Private Correspondence between Two Prominent Families regarding a Scandal touching the Highest Levels of Government and the Security of the Realm”) revolves around letters once again. Cecelia’s husband, who still sometimes works for the government, is asked to travel to Leeds in order to find a magician who has disappeared. He and Cecelia leave their children (of course) with Kate and her husband. I really enjoyed this book because not only does it include letters between Cecelia and Kate, but the husbands get to chime in of course. (And I love the way that their letters are much shorter and more brisk!)
It had been quite some time since I had read this volume, and I had a vague feeling that I hadn’t liked it as well as the first two, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The humor is spot-on, and the mystery engaging. Per usual, things get a little hasty at the end, but on the whole it is a very fun addition to the series.
Magic Below Stairs is written by Stevermer alone. While it is set in the same world, the focus is on Frederick, an orphan who finds himself employed in the home of Thomas and Kate shortly after their marriage. This book was a little weird to me just because it is obviously aimed at a much younger audience – readers who would not have read the other books or be interested in their characters. The story was alright, but there wasn’t a lot to it. It was fine for a one-time read, but I didn’t feel like it added a lot to the series, or that it was particularly brilliant as a stand-alone.
On the whole, I heartily recommend the series for anyone who enjoys lighthearted fantasy, magical regency stories, or just some good, all-around fun.