Some books I have read before

REREADING IS AMAZING.  Sometimes I forget how many amazing books I have already read, because I am busy reading new books, which are also (sometimes) amazing.  But this is what I’ve been reading lately.

Magician’s Ward, Patricia C. Wrede

Much like Mairelon the Magician.  Too many names of people, but I don’t care because I am more interested in Kim’s learning magic and having a Season and Coming Out at a ball and having Offers of Marriage to turn down.  In pretty dresses.  Can there be more pretty dresses?  And God, pretty shoes?  I need new shoes so much.  My favorite shoes are all reaching the end of their lives – the pink ones that go with all my red-toned tops; the adorable tan strappy sandals that I wore all over the place and I love them and I don’t want them to go; and the little black ones I wore to prom (I KNOW I HAVE TO LET THEM GO) and then forgot about for several years and then rediscovered, with the sweet little kitten heel.  Sigh.

Sorcery and Cecelia, Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

I love Sorcery and Cecelia.  Know why?  Because the two authors wrote it using the letter game!  The letter game!  They really did!  Kate has gone to London to have her Season, and poor Cecelia is stuck at home in Essex.  They have all sorts of fun with a marquis and a magical chocolate pot, and a wicked witch called Miranda, and beautiful friends and relations.

Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede are obviously having fun here, and they manage a plot that hangs together really well over two locations and considering they were making it up as they went along.  Reading this again for the first time in a while, I am extra triple curious about what they changed when they decided to get it published.  I would think to play the letter game, you’d have to be quite attentive to minor details in the other person’s letter, and also be flexible enough to ditch elements of the plot you had planned if the other person said something that messed it up.  Tricky!  But it sounds so fun.  One of these days…

Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters

Amelia Peabody makes me laugh.  I don’t necessarily read this series for the mysteries, though I recall finding some of them quite satisfying.  I really read them for the characters – Amelia is so determined and brilliant, and Evelyn is sweet without being sweety-sweet (usually, and when she is sweety-sweet it just makes me laugh, and she’s all There is an image enshrined in my heart – oh, Elizabeth Peters, why are you so funny all the time?); and the Emersons are charming.

Elizabeth Peters has a wicked sense of humor, and as many times as I’ve read her books, they always make me laugh.  Well-done her for giving her detective a family without making her boring – and carrying on adding family members and not forgetting them in subsequent books.  She does make oodles of good characters, though at a certain point there are too many all at once.

But I’ve strayed from the point.  Um, yes, Crocodile on the Sandbank.  Did I say, it’s set in Egypt at the end of the nineteenth century?  There are pyramids all over the place, and the characters all have sumptuous fun complaining about the treatment of antiquities (it is really shocking, to be fair – it makes me want to cry even when the antiquities in question are fictional). Plus, whenever silly characters show up, everyone makes fun of them!  Hooray!

What are some books you return to repeatedly?  If you like them so much perhaps I will like them too…

Mairelon the Magician, Patricia C. Wrede

Y’all, I’m applying for graduate school.  It is stressful as hell.  I’m telling you because the more people I tell, the more shaming it would be for me not to go through with it.  And yes!  I am using shame as a motivator!  If it can beat the crap out of me every time I do something wrong, then by God I can make it work for me to do something constructive AND AWESOME.  Since launching on this project of telling everyone, I have outlined my personal statement, asked for two recommendations, started an online application, and found the hard copy of my GRE scores.   So there.

I mention this because all the anxiety of this has made it necessary for me to read very unstressful books.  I had to take a break from The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher – although I am enjoying it! – because dude, a murder investigation has lots of facets.  Lots of elements that all have to be tied down and managed before you can proceed.  I am abandoning it not because it is sad that a three-year-old boy got murdered brutally (though that is sad) but because it reminds me too much of applying to grad school.

I read Mairelon the Magician instead.  When I was a little girl, oh how I loved Patricia C. Wrede.  I admired her desperately, and I even wrote her a letter to tell her so.  AND SHE WROTE BACK.  She wrote this lovely long letter where she told me how to be a proper writer (I still have a copy of it somewhere), and I believe that my ability to be objective about her books was shot to hell at that instant.

In my opinion – though maybe I just like Regency novels – Wrede is at her best with these alternate-England books set in Regency times, where magicians are part of the fabric of European society. Sorcery and Cecelia is my favorite of all her books, and I love Mairelon the Magician and its sequel, Magician’s Ward, nearly as much.

Guttersnipe Kim is caught snooping around in the caravan of a magician called Mairelon, and he takes her on as an assistant.  As is wont to happen in books though not (I suspect) in real life.  He is under suspicion for stealing a set of powerfully magical items; he has managed to recover one of them and is trying to track down the other five.  And so, of course, is everyone else in the world.  Hijinks ensue.

If you absolutely forced me to say something bad about Mairelon, I guess a case could be made for there being too many characters.  They are always dashing out and in while you try frantically to remember who they are and what is motivating them to chase after Mairelon or the Saltash platter or each other.  But more in a, you know, a bawdy French farce way, than in a literary flaw way.  Mairelon the Magician is just fun, and friendly – there’s chicanery, and conjuring tricks, and dodgy Regency thugs.  Hooray.

If you have written a (possibly less biased) review, let me know and I will link to it!

The Thirteenth Child, Patricia C. Wrede

Verdict: Not racist!


I read somewhere that The Thirteenth Child was racist, and it stressed me out because Patricia C. Wrede was one of my favorite authors when I was coming up, and I didn’t want her to be racist.  Especially because she’s the other author besides Jane Yolen that I wrote to in my youth, and she wrote me back a really nice email telling me to keep on reading and pay close attention to the things my favorite authors were doing, and that’s how I would get to be a better writer myself (which is what I asked her how I could do).

The Thirteenth Child is about an alternate America where mammoths run free and people are magicians.  Our heroine, Eff, is the thirteenth child of her family, and she believes that as a thirteenth child she’s doomed to cause some sort of catastrophe as an adult.  Her twin Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son, double-lucky and double-powerful, and this only increases her sense of inadequacy and danger.  Eff is convinced that she will bring disaster on everyone, and so she suppresses her magic, only allowing herself to learn Aphrikan magic with her teacher, Miss Ochiba.

I enjoyed this, but not enormously, to be honest.  Not much happens throughout the book, and Eff’s struggles with her feelings of danger and inadequacy aren’t interesting enough to carry the book completely by themselves.  I would have liked to see more character moments with Lan and William – although they were major characters, I didn’t get a strong sense of who they were.  Plus Eff had all these brothers and sisters, but she doesn’t seem to have much of a relationship with any of them, apart from Lan.  I was pleased that Eff got to save the day at the end, and I am interested to see where Patricia C. Wrede is going to go with this in (I assume) future books.  For instance, where are the American Indians?  Do we have those?  Do they play into what Wash calls “Columbian magic” and how it works?  And also, what do steam dragons do exactly, and what are they so frightened of?  Can there be more about William and Lan and Eff and how they all fit together?

Other views: Charlotte’s Library, Reading Rants, Biblauragraphy, Jo Walton, Here, There, and Everywhere, Em Reads

Let me know if I missed yours!