Read for the 2009 YA Challenge.
This YA novel, set in an alternate England after the Napoleonic Wars where magic exists, takes the form of letters between cousins Kate and Cecy. Kate’s been sent to London for the Season, and Cecy has stayed at home. Even apart, they manage to find themselves in the midst of a magically flavored, interconnecting adventure.
The story had a firm flavor of Jane Austen about it (I was particularly reminded of an analysis I’d once read of how Austen’s heroes are usually introduced), but with a slightly more modern air of fun. These girls aren’t afraid of just a little bit of possibly scandalous behavior when it’s done for a good cause.
The cast of supporting characters was charming. In Kate’s story, there’s her sister Georgina, mean Aunt Charlotte, and the Mysterious Marquis, Thomas. Cecy has her brother Oliver, James Tarleton, Aunt Elizabeth, Mr. Wrexham and Sir Hilary Bedrick to deal with. Into this mix come the charming Dorothea and her sinister step-mother Miranda. Many members of the cast change places in the story, and it was great fun to see what would happen next.
What I didn’t realize until I read the afterward, is that the authors wrote this book using the Letters Game, actually writing the letters in sequence and exchanging them, with very little discussion of plot beforehand. The stories are interconnected enough that I hadn’t suspected this while reading, but in hindsight can see where the hand-offs of characters didn’t actually occur until approval was granted by the current “owner” of a character. It’s a remarkably well-plotted book, and I’ll definitely be getting my hands on the sequel, The Grand Tour.