Book Review · Historical Fiction Challenge · Net Galley

REVIEW: Sorcery & Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

cover art courtesy of Open Road Media

Sorcery & Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Book 1)
Being the Correspondence of two Young Ladies of Quality regarding various Magical Scandals in London and the Country
Digital Edition
Authors: Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Publish Date: 22-May-2012
Publisher: Open Road Media

NetGalley synopsis: Two girls contend with sorcery in England’s Regency age.

Since they were children, cousins Kate and Cecelia have been inseparable. But in 1817, as they approach adulthood, their families force them to spend a summer apart. As Cecelia fights boredom in her small country town, Kate visits London to mingle with the brightest lights of English society.

At the initiation of a powerful magician into the Royal College of Wizards, Kate finds herself alone with a mysterious witch who offers her a sip from a chocolate pot. When Kate refuses the drink, the chocolate burns through her dress and the witch disappears. It seems that strange forces are convening to destroy a beloved wizard, and only Kate and Cecelia can stop the plot. But for two girls who have to contend with the pressures of choosing dresses and beaux for their debuts, deadly magic is only one of their concerns.

 This ebook features illustrated biographies of Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the authors’ personal collections.

First I’d like to thank Sarah Murphy from Open Road Media for her help in answering my questions and supplying me with the cover art for the book.

It turns out this story was published several years ago, but this is  a digital edition with added information about the authors that was not previously published.

Before I get into my review of the story, I would like to make a few technical comments.  When I downloaded the file from NetGalley to my Kindle, the formatting was off.  It was automatically horizontal and the last line of text on some “pages” was (screen image) cut in half, making it difficult to read.  Since I still have my Sony eReader, I decided to see if I would have better luck with that.  I chose the medium text option, which was a bit larger than I am accustomed to, but the small font was too tiny.  This also had some formatting errors.  Sometimes only a few words or a few sentences would be on one “page” (screen image), resulting in a total page count of 350 (the Kindle version was 320 pages).

Also, I don’t know if it is because I used the Sony eReader, but I didn’t have illustrated biographies of the authors or photos. There was a brief afterward from the two authors discussing how the book was developed from a game.  I loved the idea of a letter writing game and thought it was very clever to turn it into a book.  (The Kindle also did not have any images or biographies, but just the same afterward I read on the eReader).

Hopefully, kinks were worked out and the digital edition now available for purchase is formatted appropriately and the biographies, photos, and afterward are all included. (or maybe the additional sections are only included in the ebook for purchase and not for review?)

Though the digital formatting on the device was a bit annoying, I was still able to enjoy the story, and thought it was a good one.

I really liked that it was set up in a letter-writing format.  I think it made it easier and faster to read.  Though I’m not an historical fiction expert by any means, I thought the language and writing were appropriate (including Capitalizing certain words when trying to emphasize a point – see the subtitle above for a perfect example).  It very much reminded me of books I read that actually were written in the 1800s.

The story was cute. The reader gets to know Kate and Cecelia (affectionately known as Cecy) through their letters to each other. Most of the characters were fairly well-developed (especially when one considers how they were created) and easy to believe. While the “love story” elements were predictable, they didn’t detract from the story.  In fact, for me, it was more like “alright already, just realize you love him”.  I think part of the reason it was acceptable to see the love interest progress so “quickly” during the reading was because time passed through the use of the letters. There wasn’t a lot of  back-story and build up, but I think that was better since this is for young adults.  If this had too much back-story and plot set-up, young adults may lose interest quickly. (To clarify, for this particular book, I think of young adult as around 12 years old or so)

I thought there would be more magic involved considering the title (and subtitle), but it seemed a lot of the magic performed was “off stage”, meaning that the reader didn’t “see” it happen, but rather “heard” about it.  While this wasn’t really an issue for me, I can expect some people may wish to “see” more magic and spells happen.

Sorcery & Cecelia is a fun read that could be done in just a couple of days.  I would consider it a “beach read” or even something I would read while flying to pass the time.

I would definitely recommend this book to young readers, and girls would probably enjoy it more than boys, generally speaking.   I understand that a couple more books were written in this series and I will probably read them at some point.

I would like to reiterate that I was not compensated for my review.

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