Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Book Report: Regency Fantasy

I have proper cable again! It turns out that they didn't activate the box properly, and the person on the phone Saturday should have been able to take care of it. The guy was barely in my house long enough to laugh about Comedy Central on CSPAN, then he hit a button on the gizmo he carried, and it was all set right. I did learn that my ongoing OnDemand issues aren't just me, that they're having serious server problems and have been since December.

And I got the cable back just in time because tonight is the season premiere of Warehouse 13. It looks like the Sci Fi channel (I refuse to acknowledge their silly name change) is marathoning the end of the season leading up to the premiere, and most of the continuity stuff only came up at the end of the season, so if you want to jump in, this is a good chance. This is a fun, quirky show, sort of a lighter X-Files meets Raiders of the Lost Ark vibe. I think the tone is along the lines of my books, with some humor, maybe a little satire, some action and likable characters.

I mentioned last week that I hadn't had any books to report on. Well, over the weekend I read Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, which I believe was a recommendation from a blog reader, and I LOVED it. I must now find the sequel. This is a Regency fantasy -- pretty much what you'd get if Georgette Heyer wrote fantasy (though I think the writing style and tone is more similar to Marion Chesney, who wrote a lot of Regencies in the 70s and 80s). It has all the elements of a classic Regency romance, but with added magic. The story is told through letters exchanged between cousins. One went to London for the Season and the other stayed behind in the country. Strange things are afoot in both places, as there's a girl who seems unusually attractive to every man around and her stepmother who will stop at nothing to ensure that her stepdaughter marries the right man -- and it has nothing to do with just snagging a rich husband. There's a mysterious marquis, the genial neighborhood wizard and a suspicious young man who's always lurking about in bushes.

What's really fun is the story of how the book came about. It started as a game between the two authors. They wrote letters to each other in character, creating the story as they went along and responded to things in previous letters. There was no planning or plotting. When they were done and reread all the letters together, they realized it would make a good book, and then they edited it to trim the extraneous stuff and tighten the plot a bit. That sounds like it might be a fun game to play.

The book was published as young adult, probably mostly because of the publishing track record of the authors involved (they were probably already under contract to the YA house), and I found it in the teen section of the library. But it reads just like any other Regency, and there's nothing very "teen" about it. The heroines of Regency romances are often in their teens, but I don't even recall any ages being mentioned for these characters.

I now may have to make another library trip because the other novel I got seems to be all about tragic pettiness. I guess that's why I like genre fiction (this is one of those quasi-literary book club type books). If I'm going to read something tragic, I want it to be on a big scale -- death, the downfall of kingdoms, noble sacrifice for the greater good, etc. I'm not as big on reading about an ordinary life taking a gradual downward turn because the people around that person are petty, prejudiced and selfish.

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