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Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
book cover

Book 2
2004, Sep, Harcourt
Buy from Amazon.com (hardcover)

Who recommends: Preeti
Who discommends:

I read Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's THE GRAND TOUR this past weekend, and--dare I say it?--I was bored through great chunks of it. It was the delightful little bits interspersed throughout that kept me going. If anyone doesn't know, SORCERY AND CECELIA and THE GRAND TOUR are set in an alternate Regency England, and now Europe as well, in which magic exists and there's even a Royal College of Wizards.

Cousins Cecy and Kate get married and embark upon a wedding journey to the continent with their respective husbands and an aunt. They immediately stumble into a mystery with implications for the security of all Europe.

The full title explains much: THE GRAND TOUR, or The Purloined Coronation Regalia, being a revelation of matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, including extracts from the intimate diary of a Noblewoman and the sworn testimony of a Lady of Quality.

SORCERY AND CECELIA was composed of the two cousins exchanging letters; THE GRAND TOUR had Kate keeping a diary and Cecy recording a deposition for the authorities. This made Kate's documentation altogether the more interesting and intimate, not to mention lengthier, portion of the book. Although you have to work to believe that anyone's diary would read so much like a novel. I didn't quite get there.

In the beginning, I liked Cecy's depositions more because I thought the writer of that section had a stronger period feel and wittier writing. By the middle of the book, I was thoroughly in Kate's camp, not least because in a diary form you actually had some sweet, romantic scenes recorded between Kate and her new husband, Thomas. Kate's diaries had flashes of humor and wit as well.

Not that Kate wasn't annoying. Hers is the central emotional arc of the book--she goes from being wearingly self-conscious about herself to becoming...less so. I'm too used to intrepid heroines, I guess, to properly empathize with Kate even though her emotions are probably ones I'd share in her situation.

Cool thing: references to an older generation of characters being members of the League of the Pimpernel. And, oh, yeah, the mystery. I only became interested in it at the big climactic scene when all was solved, and then I decided it was cool, too.

Overall, I had to finish the book by sheer force of will, kept motivated because the mere idea of a Regency/fantasy combo is so cool, because good bits were scattered throughout, and because I liked SORCERY AND CECELIA so much. I keep going back and forth on whether I'd actually recommend THE GRAND TOUR. Today my answer is yes. A lukewarm yes.--Preeti (2 Sep 04)

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