Monday, September 6, 2010

A Most Improper Magick- Stephanie Burgis

Kat Stephenson’s family is in trouble. Her brother’s gambling debts will have him thrown into debtors’ prison if they are not paid in two months. For Kat and her two older sisters, Elissa and Angeline, this would put paid to any prospects of marriage. As it is their marriage prospects aren’t good. They have no real dowries and though their father is a clergyman, their mother was a witch and in the nineteenth century that was a disgrace in the eyes of society.

Kat is only twelve and her plan of dressing as a boy and running away to London to make her fortune is quickly foiled by her older sisters. Her stepmother has a much more practical plan. She hopes to marry off Elissa to a wealthy man, Sir Neville Collingwood. Elissa has agreed to this but Kat knows there is something ominous her two sisters are not telling her about him. Both Kat and Angeline are determined to stop the match from happening. Kat’s plans are brought to a halt but when she finds her mother’s magic books in Angeline’s possession she realises that Angeline’s plans are more risky. Kat realises that magic could be an effective means of preventing the marriage but when she searches her mother’s belongings she finds out there is more than one type of magic and that those who practice it are not always the friendliest people. As the meeting with Sir Neville grows closer Kat is determined to ensure that catastrophe is diverted without marrying her sisters off to men they do not love.

Kat is a lively and likable character. Her family seems to be a typical fairy tale family with the wicked stepmother and the weak father. It is an interesting twist that it is the girls’ dead mother who was the witch not the stepmother. The book is exciting and fast moving. It’s quite scary in places and very funny. Kat is perpetually making mistakes but she always has good intentions. The reader will be able to relate to her because she is not perfect even if she has powerful talents. The book has the familiar plotline of the young protagonist being responsible for dealing with the mess that her older relatives make. It is distinguished by its great heroine and sinister villains. It has a well thought out structure for its magical world and what is revealed about makes the reader want to know more. It also brushes against problems of class in both Kat’s home life and the magical world that she enters. A Most Improper Magick is an exciting book for readers in the 10+ age group.

'A Most Improper Magick' is Stephanie Burgis’ first novel. There are two more books about Kat and her family due to be published in the next few years. Stephanie Burgis has had short stories published, many of which are available to read online on her website Most of these short stories are written for adults.

'A Most Imprper Magick' is available now.

My thanks to Templar Publishing for my review copy of the book.


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