No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010/69: The Mislaid Magician -- Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

I can find no observations on the effect of running a steam locomotive in the vicinity of a ley line. The stationary steam engines used in mines have, to date, not been located near enough to ley lines for any difficulties to become apparent. I found, however, any number of papers regarding the tapping of ley energies. Most of them warn of inadvisable methods of attempting it, or deal with the catastrophic results of applying such techniques. (p.73)

The subtitle of this, the third in the sequence that began with Sorcery and Cecelia, is Being the Private Correspondence Between Two Prominent Families Regarding a Scandal Touching the Highest Levels of Government and the Security of the Realm. There is, indeed, a great deal of political discussion and speculation in the letters of Kate, Cecelia, James and Thomas: there is also a lot of family gossip and commentary. The younger generation are variously afflicted with colds, kidnapping and a excess of curiosity regarding their parents’ magical enterprises; Cecelia’s feckless sister Georgy turns up at Kate’s house, having apparently fled her husband.

The Mislaid Magician is set in 1828, eleven years after Sorcery and Cecelia. The main plot concerns the disappearance of Herr Scheller, a Prussian railway surveyor-magician, while assessing the route of the Stockton-Darlington railway. James, still a favourite of Wellington (who is now Prime Minister), is sent north to investigate, in company with Cecelia: Thomas and Kate find themselves embroiled in a different aspect of the intrigue. There are ley lines, stone circles (though actually, no, these are not found ‘all over England’), steam engines, echoes of fairytale villains, knitted cryptography, and a kidnapped heiress who refuses to speak. (I should have spotted who this was, but hadn’t realised she used her middle name in later life.)

I loved Sorcery and Cecelia, and though the later books haven’t had quite the same impact I very much enjoy the combination of frothy frivolity, well-thought-out magical practices, and alternate history. There’s a nice set-up for further books at the end of The Mislaid Magician, and I look forward to them.

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