Synopsis from Goodreads
“I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from impending ruin.
“I made it almost to the end of my front garden…”
Magic may be the greatest scandal in Regency England. But that’s not going to stop Kat Stephenson when there are highwaymen to foil, sinister aristocrats to defeat…and true loves to capture for her two older sisters.
I’m going to try and keep this review short as sweet*, like our heroine Kat Stephenson.
Whenever I read a book set in this era, I always get a bit of an uneasy feeling because I know it’s going to inevitably lead to my most dreaded confession: I don’t like Jane Austen. The first thing you think of when it’s books from this period is her so I feel like, when reading a book set in this time, that I’m gate crashing a party that no one wants me at.
But whatever, because I loved this book and I’m glad I went to the party and ate all the cake before all you Austen fans got any.
This book was so charming. It’s the kind of book you should read on a dewy Saturday morning before any one is up with a steaming mug of tea in front of you. Or, well, coffee if you’re that kind of person.
I simply adored Kat. She was such a perfect narrator; fun, observant, clever and just a little oblivious to the things going on around her.
But it was the sisters and their interactions that stole my heart. I know I’m always chattin’ on about how I wish that YA books focussed on familial relationships, especially those of the sibling variety, but it’s true. It’s such a minefield for love and humour and, on the whole, it’s completely untapped. It took me a while to put my finger on why I loved these sisters so much. Sure they were hilarious, realistic, sassy and their interactions were simply wonderful. But it was something more than that. And then I realised what it was.
Basically, the Stephenson sisters are the slightly sassier British cousins of the March sisters. And, even better, they don’t even have an Amy counterpart!
I know I’ve just opened a can of worms because all the Amy March fans will come crawling out of the woodwork and pelt me with limes as they cackle over the embers of my burning manuscript. My Amy March rant is almost as long as my Mockingjay rant, and this review is neither the time or place for such a rant but I have to say: I wish Laurie and Jo had carried on skating as Amy floundered in the icy water.
Sorry, sore subject.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes! The Stephensons. I loved them. My favourite of the sisters was, naturally, the snarky difficult Angeline because she was… well, snarky and difficult. I am a bit jealous of her because of a certain dashing gentlemen with sideburns. Actually, he might not have sideburns but I’m pretending he does. She was simply brilliant.
And I loved how Ms Burgis portrayed Elissa through the cynical and constant-rolling eyes of Kat and Angeline. The part at the end… with the masked man? Pahahaha. It made me think of all the simpering heroines that I (wrongly, before you all SHOUT at me) that I associate with Austen-esque books and the way that Elissa was poked fun at (in a nice way, of course) made me feel like Ms Burgis was giving me a secret wink. Though she probably wasn’t.
I also adored the setting. As much as it’s going to pain my Cheshire heart, Yorkshire does provide the best background for books. What with ramshackled abbeys and sprawling moors, the atmosphere was brilliant and perfectly complimented the magic that Ms Burgis weaved through her story. As much as I know and appreciate the readers who love their urban fantasy, I always think that magic is more suited to take place in the middle of the countryside, where secrets dwell in the dark corners of wild forests and dilapidated buildings.
“In our house, and in our comfortable little village, despite how hilly it was, you could almost forget we lived in Yorkshire. But the Dales were different. Wild. Dangerous. As massive, craggy hills rose high before us and a rock chasm opened up beside the road…. a hawk soared over our carriage, letting out a high, piercing cry of defiance, and I wanted to jump out of the window and fly with it.”
This is what I was imagining.
Actually, that picture was taken when I went searching for my other favourite book set in Yorkshire. Can you guess which one?
This book was glorious and a wonderful surprise. A really promising start to what looks to be a fantastic and unique serious with a spirited heroine and men with delicious sideburns.
Wait, ok… the men might not actually have sideburns, delicious or not. Please don’t just read this book for the sideburns, because you may be disappointed. Please read it because of the story and the characters, because then I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
*Don’t tell her I said that because she’ll boot me in the shins.