Saturday, May 19, 2007

English Regency Spelling

kw: book reviews, fantasy, magic, wizards

I had to look it up. The English Regency formally comprises 1811-1820, though colloquially "Regency" also refers to the cultural period between Georgian and Victorian (1800-1837).

Imagine the late Regency period, now nearly two centuries past. Travel by rail is just beginning, George IV has recently ascended the throne, Alexandrina Victoria is a child...and the Royal College of Magicians is about to discover just what holds jolly old England together.

Minnesota authors Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer have collaborated to produce The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years After, writing as cousins Cecy and Kate, a pair of young duchesses, both magicians though of differing training and skill. Cecy, married to non-magical James, is quite adept, Kate less so...though she is formidable enough in her chosen spells! Kate's husband Thomas is a master wizard.

Their chosen style is letters between the women. "Ten Years After" harks back to an earlier pair of collaborations in the same style. There are a few exchanges between James and Thomas. Judging by writing styles, Patricia writes as Cece and Thomas, and Caroline as Kate and James. Both authors are quite adept at writing in a supposed young Duke's voice.

I have old letters between my grandmother and her sisters and cousins, from about 1900-1910. The newsy, burbling voice of women who thoroughly adore one another matches the writing voices found here.

So just who has been mislaid? At least in the milieu of the book, a magician has talent but little training compared to a wizard (no matching female word is used) who is extensively trained, licensed, and (this is a partial guess) accredited.

A German surveyor-magician has been hired by a newly-minted railway company to inspect is railbeds for geological and magical anomalies; there have been somewhat too many accidents. He has promptly gone missing, so Cece and James are commissioned to investigate, while their four children spend time with their second cousin at Kate and Thomas's manse.

Magical anomalies indeed abound, various people spend various amounts of "canine time" due to a gigantic spell going awry, and a plot to subvert English royalty is uncovered.

While I find too much "here's a new spell to solve this new dilemma" in most magical fantasy, these authors avoid such ad hocracy, write with a compelling consistency, and spin an enjoyable tale.

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