Saturday, June 23, 2012
Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011
Middle-Grade Historical Fantasy
***Possible spoilers for first book Kat Incorrigible***
After loving Kat, Incorrigible, it was a no-brainer to pick up this sequel, looking for another delightful adventure with Kat who now knows about her Guardian powers and is eager to learn more.
The book dives right back into the mischief, beginning with Kat's eldest sister marrying the wealthy young man she had fallen in love with in the previous book; the ceremony is interrupted when the middle sister's love's mother storms in, hellbent on preventing an alliance with a family known for its association with the scandalous witchcraft. Given that I had forgotten about these romances, I was a little thrown but soon all of the characters came rushing back to me.
The story then moves to Bath with Stepmama insisting that middle sister Angeline needs to acquire a fiance to restore the family's reputation or else she will be left behind. Angeline has her own plans and Kat is determined to not be left out. Additionally her brother is caught up in some kind of ancient ritual and their dreamy father may have vital knowledge to prevent disaster.
I feel like this book was more madcap and manic than the previous book to its detriment. I was increasingly frustrated with the headstrong characters especially Angeline's refusal to educate Kat about her magical legacy and Kat's headstrong self continuing to do whatever she wanted. She acts on instinct, making a decision and acting on it, without considering potential consequences. She's only twelve but I remember her being a bit more mature in the first book so this felt like a regression to me. Fortuantely she learned to govern her temper somewhat at important junctures in the book but I was a little tired of her by that point.
I was also disappointed that the relationship between the sisters was less prominent. Eldest sister Elissa is on her honeymoon and Angeline is so secretive. I wanted the sisters to be closer even when not physically near each other. Another problem was the villainous Lady Fotherington, an adult who seems determined to match wits with twelve-year-old Kat-um, maybe aspire higher? I supposed Kat is the most worthy opposition but you'd think Lady Fotherington could have waited until Kat was older and more appropriate competition.
Lest you think it is all negative, I still had a pretty fun time. Of course, I loved visiting Bath and the Pump Room as a long-time Jane Austen fan and the writing is as pleasing as before. I sped through the book and could barely put it down. I still love Kat's tutor Mr. Gregson and I found her stepmother more sympathetic in this book (the poor woman has to put up with a lot from her stepchildren); in fact, she was one of my favorite characters with her very understandable concerns and reactions. There are also some fun new characters including relative Lucy who accidentally plays a big part in the magical aspect. And Lady Fotherington, while infuriating, was fun for me to read.
Overall: Not quite as enjoyable as its predecessor but still a good read for fans of the series.