books

Caroline Stevermer

Books

Sorcery & Cecelia -OR- The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (1988), The Grand Tour (2004), The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After (2006)

Anthologies: Snow White, Blood Red (1993), The Essential Bordertown (1998), The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007), Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy (2013)

 

 

Sorcery & Cecelia -OR- The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (1988) with
Patricia C. Wrede

After putting down a book that looked promising but I found only annoying after the first several chapters, I picked up Sorcery & Cecelia, which I'd put on my wish list because I thought it looked interesting. I thought that I'd just read a couple of chapters before going to sleep, however at midnight I found myself thinking, "just one more chapter and then I'll go to sleep" until I'd read half the book.

Sorcery & Cecelia -OR- The Enchanted Chocolate Pot is set in Victorian England and is told as a series of letters between Kate and Cecelia. Kate has gone to London for her first Season, while Cecelia remains in Essex. The twist is that this England is a place where magic is commonplace, and the two girls become involved in a magical plot, which makes Kate's coming out unusually exciting.

First and foremost, this book is a lot of fun to read. It's a relatively quick read, it's quite lighthearted (no angsty teens here), and the story is fascinating. Which is why I had trouble putting the book down to go to sleep.

Although some things were expected--this is a book about teenage girls, after all, there must be some romance--there was plenty that was unexpected. I also liked the fact that the story was told from the point of view of only two characters, so things were happening elsewhere, however we can only assume how they are resolved, because we know no more than the letter writers. Thus the story leaves much for us to figure out and guess on our own.

And did I mention that the story is simply a lot of fun to read?

The only problem I had was with the cover--for the most part I liked the cover, except that the face of the two girls are too old. Everything else is perfect, but it looks like the faces of two women on the body of two teens, although I can't quite place my finger on what precisely it is that makes me feel that way. The rest of the cover, however, I really liked, from the handwriting that overlays the lower portion of the cover, to the blue chocolate pot in the corner.

Additionally, although there is a sequel, this story is complete in and of itself, so if you're looking for a single book to read, this is a good place to sit down and curl up.

Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: January 2015

I had somehow managed to forget how marvelous this story is.

Kate and Cecy are two young ladies in Edwardian England–where there is magic. Kate has been sent to London for her Coming Out during the Season, while her cousin Cecelia remains at home.

When Kate attends the investiture of Sir Hilary in the College of Magicians, she stumbles into a strange garden where she is captured by a strange woman, but manages to escape. (Because both Cecy and Kate *do* rescue themselves.)

And they are also great fun.

Cecy, you know I can tell falsehoods . No matter who looks at me, for how long, I can tell bouncers so enormous even Aunt Charlotte does not think to question them.

The language is marvelous, and although the letters don’t precisely sound as if they were written by two teenagers, they are marvelous all the same.

This is an utterly marvelous story, and suitable for younger teens as well as adults.
Rating: 10/10

Published by Open Road Media Teen & Tween

The Grand Tour (2004) with Patricia C. Wrede

If you've already read Sorcery and Cecelia, then you'll need little or no encouragement to pick up The Grand Tour. Cousins Kate and Cecelia are taking the grand tour of Europe on their honeymoons. Within almost no time, they are caught up in intrigue involving ancient magical artifacts, and a secret group that was active during Napoleon's reign as Emperor of France.

In their free moments, Cecelia practices her magic, while Kate adjusts to becoming Lady Schofield. The book is taken from Kate's commonplace book (diary) and Cecelia's deposition, so like the first book, the story is told as the written accounts of Kate and Cecelia.

Like Sorcery and Cecelia, this book is probably not for everyone. The main characters are two young women, just married, on their honeymoon trips. So there's shopping, and dressmaking, and talk of gloves, and Society. But there is also magic and danger, as the two couples unravel the mystery of missing ancient artifacts.

This book, although good, wasn't quite as fun as Sorcery and Cecelia. Although it was fun to see the cousins together, and the trouble they could cause together, as opposed to separately, something about this book just wasn't quite as sharp, quite as fun, as the first book.

Additionally, for the first several chapters, I had difficulty keeping Thomas and James straight. Kate and Cecilia were easy to tell apart, but at times Thomas and James seemed almost interchangeable, and I kept forgetting who was married to whom.

But it was still a good book. Kate and Cecelia are enjoyable characters, and they are good at using their wits to get themselves out of situations, so it's a nice change from the hack and slash I've been reading a good deal of recently.

And again, another excellent cover. The layout is reminiscent of the paperback version of Sorcery and Cecelia, however, the two women on the front look of a more appropriate age this time.

Additionally, the honeymoon portion of this book is extremely understated, so the story is appropriate for any child brave enough to pick up an inch and a half thick book.

If you have not read Sorcery and Cecelia, you should be able to read this book without difficulty. Events of importance are mentioned and explained. However, Sorcery and Cecelia is, in my opinion, the better book, so you might want to start there, and then read The Grand Tour as a fix for needing more proper Victorian fantasy.
Rating: 7/10

Re-Read: January 2015

We last saw our heroines married and getting ready to start their Honeymoon Grand Tour, or travel across Europe, which begins with the trip across the Channel.

“Don’t fret,” Thomas told him, in what I thought was a most unfeeling tone. “Nobody ever dies of seasickness ; they only wish they would.”

Ceci’s father has of course given them lots of ancient ruins and monuments to see while they are on their tour.

Ask C. to check Uncle’s handwriting before I write home with description. He would be upset if I got name wrong and Minerva Anthrax seems most unlikely.

Almost as soon as they land in France, strange incidents seem to occur, which draw the two couples (and the dowager Lady) into intrigue and mystery.

Though they do also get to see plenty of antiquities.

I had never before seen quite so many entirely unsuitable antiquities in one place. Their existence in such numbers gives one a very odd impression of the ancients, if one stops to think.

Because the cousins are together, they obviously can’t write letters back and forth, so instead we have parts of Cecelia’s deposition to the Ministry of Magic, War Office, and Foreign Office and entries from Kate’s commonplace book (i.e. journal).

It’s not quite the same feel as the letters, but it’s still a fun romp.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Open Road Media Teen & Tween

The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After (2006) with Patricia C. Wrede

Kate and Cecy are once again embroiled in magical mysteries.

James is called to investigate the disappearance of a magician who was inspecting the rail lines up north. Thomas and Kate thus get to care for James and Cecy’s brood, and soon have their own adventures (of course).

As with the first book, the story is told in letters between Kate and Cecy as well as the occasional letter between James and Thomas. And as with the first book, I love the way the story unfolds.

If you have read the first two books, you’ll enjoy this one. You should also be able to read Ten Years after without having read the first two books, but I don’t know why you’d want to.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Graphia

Re-Read: January 2015

The third Cecelia and Kate book comes ten years after their Grand Tour. Both have offspring that seem to get into as much trouble as their mothers did when they were younger, and some of the children seem to be showing an early aptitude for magic.

In a change from the first two books, we now have not just the correspondence between Ceci and Kate, but also between James and Thomas.

In this story, James and Ceci are sent off by the Duke of Wellington to search for a missing magician–one who was sent to look into the newfangled steam engine trains, while Kate and Thomas watch their children.

(A)fter the first half dozen, one child more or less makes little difference to the general chaos, disorder, and stickiness of life.

And Georgy has taken up residence with Kate and Thomas as well, hiding from what, she won’t say, but she hasn’t changed any in ten years.

P.P.S. Georgy is composing a letter of apology to you and James. She (belatedly but sincerely) regrets exposing your children to risk. From the amount of time she devotes to this missive, I fear it will be extremely long. It may even be in verse. I thought you should be warned. —K.

It’s another fun story, though I am not sure how much I benefited by reading the three books one after the other. They were a lovely escape, but they didn’t necessarily have the same draw, read one right after the other.

Additionally, I had a terrible time keeping Kate and Ceci’s kids straight, and could not keep track of their ages. Considering how frequently the children are mentioned, a cast of characters would have been helpful.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Open Road Media Teen & Tween

 

Anthologies

 

Snow White, Blood Red (1993) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I often have a hard time putting down interesting books. Which means that if I’m reading a book I real like before bed, I end up staying up past my bed time instead of falling asleep. One solution is to read non-fiction before bed. The other solution is to read short story anthologies. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of high quality anthologies out there. At least, not enough to keep up with the rate at which I can read.

So I decided to go back and reread Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's fantasy anthology Snow White, Blood Red. This book has a whole bunch of things going for it at once: it's edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling; it's got stories by Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint; and the stories are retellings or reinventions of folk and fairy tales. Mostly fairy tales in this book.

Plus, a gorgeous cover by Thomas Canty.

For those who are unfamiliar with folk tales and fairy tales, many of the original tales--before they got cleaned up and given to kids--were filled with sex, (in addition to the casual violence of people getting eyes poked out or chopping off bits of feet or being shoved into ovens.)

In other words, these are not stories for children.

Like a Red, Red Rose - Susan Wade
The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep - Charles de Lint
The Frog Prince - Gahan Wilson
Stalking Beans -Nancy Kress
Snow-Drop - Tanith Lee
Little Red - Wendy Wheeler
I Shall Do Thee Mischie in the Wood - Kathe Koja
The Root of the Matter - Gregory Frost
The Princess in the Tower - Elizabeth A. Lynn
Persimmon - Harvey Jacobs
Little Poucet - Steve Rasnic Tem
The Changelings - Melanie Tem
The Springfield Swans - Caroline Stevermer and Ryan Edmonds
Troll Bridge - Neil Gaiman
A Sound, Like Angels Singing - Leonard Rysdyk
Puss - Esther M. Friesner
The Glass Casket - Jack Dann
Knives - Jane Yolen
The Snow Queen - Patricia A. McKillip
Breadcrumbs and Stones - Lisa Goldstein

...

As best I can tell, this anthology is still available, so if you like short stories, this is an anthology you won't want to miss. However, if you like anthologies, this is probably one you already have sitting on your shelves.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Harper Collins

The Essential Bordertown (1998) edited by Terri Windling & Delia Sherman

Essential BordertownThe Essential Bordertown is a collection of short stories set in Bordertown, the land between our world and Faerie. The stories are written with a teenage audiences in mind, with primarily teenage characters, and parts of a “traveler’s guide” appearing before each chapter.

Bordertown strikes me as a cross between Sanctuary of Thieves’ World and the world created by Charles de Lint. It’s the area where faerie and the world of humans meets, and it’s a strange place where neither magic or technology works properly, and although there are some places where elves and humans meet and get along, there are roving gangs of elves and humans who rule different parts of town, and woe to the opposite race who wanders into their territory.

Oak Hill - Patricia A. Mckillip
Dragon Child - Midori Snyder
Socks - Delia Sherman
Half Life - Donnard Sturgis
Hot Water : A Bordertown Romance - Ellen Kushner
Arcdia - Michael Korolenko
Changeling - Elisabeth Kushner
May This Be Your Last Sorrow - Charles De Lint
Rag - Caroline Stevermer
When The Bow Breaks - Steven Brust
Argentine - Ellen Steiber
Cover Up My Tracks With Rain - Micole Sudberg
How Shannaro Tolkinson Lost And Found His Heart - Felicity Savage

Some of my favorite authors contributed to this anthology: Charles de Lint, Steven Brust, Ellen Kushner. I particularly liked Charles de Lint’s story “May This Be Your Last Sorrow”, but then I think that he has his own magic in that he is able to write the most wonderful short stories.
Although all the stories in this anthology were good, I did like some more than others. As I mentioned, I particularly enjoyed Charles de Lint’s “May this Be Your Last Sorrow”. I also very much liked Carloline Stevermer’s story “Rag”, whose characters were adults, but they were adults deal with the friendships of childhood and adolescence. The story “Half Life” by Donnard Sturgis was particularly good–I had no idea where the story was going, and was pleased with how it ended.And Delia Sherman’s story “Socks” was also particularly good, although there was much that was unresolved.

As a whole, the anthology was pretty good. Unlike Thieves World  the authors didn’t write each others characters, but they did have a shared world, which did tie the stories together, making it something more than a simple anthology.
I would love to read the original Borderland anthologies, however, they’re out of print and I’ll have to find them used if I want them. But I do recommend The Essential Bordertown to anyone who likes antholgies or any fan of the Charles de Lint.
Rating: 8/10

The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I love short stories. Aside from collections by Charles de Lint, I best love anthologies by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling best. Their books are like comfort food, and I save them up for when I’m sick or feeling low.

In the same vein as The Green Man and The Faerie Reel, Datlow and Windling have this time collected stories about tricksters, and they’ve got some of my favorite authors in this collection: Charles de Lint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ellen Kushner. As usual, they manage to collect stories by some of my favorite story tellers.

One Odd Shoe - Pat Murphy
Coyote Woman - Carolyn Dunn
Wagers of Gold Mountain - Steve Berman
The Listeners - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Realer than You - Christopher Barzak
The Fiddler of Bayou Teche - Delia Sherman
A Tale for the SHort Days - Richard Bowes
Friday Night at St. Cecilia's - Ellen Klages
The Fortune Teller - Patricia A. McKillip
How Raven Made his Bride - Theodora Goss
Crow Roads - Charles de Lint
The Chamber of Music Animals - Katharine Vaz
Uncle Bob's Visits - Caroline Stevermer
Uncle Tompa - Midori Snyder
Cat of the World - Michael Cadnum
Honored Guest - Ellen Kushner
Always the Same Story - Elizabeth E. Wein
The Senorita and the Cactus Thorn - Kim Antieau
Black Rock Blues - Will Shetterly
The Constable of Abal - Holly Black
God Clown - Carol Emshwiller
The Other Labyrinnth - Jedediah Berry
The Dreaming Wind - Jeffery Ford
Kwaku Anansi Walks the World's Web - Jane Yolen
The Evolution of Trickster Stories Amount the Dogs of North Park after the Change - Kij Johnson

...

If like short story collections, or trickster tales, then you will want to read The Coyote Road. It has stories from many of my favorite writers, and as with all their collections, I was delighted to discover new authors for whom I’ll be on the lookout.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Viking

Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy (2013) edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

queen-victorias-book-of-spellsQueen Victoria’s Book of Spells by Delia Sherman
The Fairy Enterprise by Jeffrey Ford
From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire) by Genevieve Valentine
The Memory Book by Maureen McHugh
La Reine d’Enfer by Kathe Koja
For the Briar Rose by Elizabeth Wein
The Governess by Elizabeth Bear
Smithfield by James P. Blaylock
The Unwanted Women of Surrey by Kaaron Warren
Charged by Leanna Renee Hieber
Mr. Splitfoot by Dale Bailey
Phosphorus by Veronica Schanoes
We Without Us Were Shadows by Catherynne M. Valente
The Vital Importance of the Superficial by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer
The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown by Jane Yolen
A Few Twigs He Left Behind by Gregory Maguire
Their Monstrous Minds by Tanith Lee
Estella Saves the Village by Theodora Goss

I love anthologies and I love historical fiction. So this should have been an automatic win for me.

Instead it was a two-plus year slog that I finally forced myself to finish.

...

The Vital Importance of the Superficial by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer.

Without exactly saying so directly, I assured him I would do no such thing. Miss Prism’s Academy trained us well for some situations, and saying no without ever using the word was a large part of our curriculum.

Published by Tor

 

Caroline Stevermer's website