Review: “A Most Improper Magick” by Stephanie Burgis
I’ll be spending this week talking about the books I read during last Saturday’s Readathon. I’ll be going in order from least favorite to most.
The last book I read during the October 2010 Readathon was A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis. Because I read in the wee hours of the morning, it had to be light and fast — which it was, being more middle-grade fiction than YA. It was my least favorite of my Readathon books, but then, it had some tough competition!
At 12 years old, Katherine (Kat) Stephenson is the youngest of three sisters. They live with their father and stepmother in Regency England. A vague scandal involving their real mother and magic, combined with their brother Charles’s debts, have placed the hope of the family on the shoulders of Elissa, the eldest daughter. As the story opens, she has agreed to marry Sir Neville, one of the wealthiest men in England, for her family’s sake. The fact that he is extremely old is bad enough, but there are also nasty rumors going around about the fate of his first wife. Meanwhile, the middle sister, Angeline, has her own plans for landing a husband. Kat can’t keep from meddling with her sisters’ situations and so — of course — manages to get into plenty of trouble of her own.
I did enjoy the book. The dialogue is snappy, and the three sisters have distinct personalities. Kat is the epitome of the spunky girl heroine, tossing herself willy-nilly into all sorts of mischief and refusing to be left out. The story was original enough that it didn’t feel predictable. Burgis’s writing flowed well and was quite nice to read.
My complaint with A Most Improper Magick had to do with the plot. Early in the book, Kat learns things about herself and her mother that I expected would come into play as a major part of the story, and I was looking forward to learning about them. Instead, Kat really didn’t progress at all in that respect, and the story had very little to do with magic or her mother’s past. I realize this book is the first in a series and, as such, focused on setting the scene for future books. However, instead of the magic aspect being the book’s focus, it ended up as more of a side story to the battle for husbands being waged by Kat’s sisters. Which is all well and good, but I guess the title and initial chapters set me up to expect a different tale.
The story wrapped up too well at the end to leave me anxiously awaiting the next installment, so I doubt I’ll pick it up when it comes out. That being said, I definitely think the series has promise and would be very much enjoyed by its intended age range. Kat’s story will certainly be continued, and I’m sure young readers everywhere will eagerly follow her progress.
Note: The advanced reader copy I have states that the book was to have been published by Atheneum in April of 2010 under the title A Most Improper Magick. However, further research online uncovered that, while the book is out in the UK, in the US it will be published in April of 2011 under a new title: Kat, Incorrigible. The US title suits the story better, I think…but I have to say I prefer the UK cover (on the left). What do you think?
Still to come:
- The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
- Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko (audiobook)
- Something Missing by Matthew Dicks