A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede (Part 1)
Source: Personal shelf
When a stranger offers her a small fortune to break into a traveling magician’s wagon, Kim doesn’t hesitate. Having grown up a waif in the dirty streets of London, Kim isn’t above a bit of breaking-and-entering. A hard life and lean times have schooled her in one lesson: steal from them before they steal from you. But when the magician catches her in the act, Kim thinks she’s done for. Until he suggests she become his apprentice; then the real trouble begins.
Kim soon finds herself entangled with murderers, thieves, and cloak-and-dagger politics, all while trying to learn how to become both a proper lady and a magician in her own right. Magic and intrigue go hand in hand in Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward, two fast-paced novels filled with mystery and romance, set against the intricate backdrop of Regency England.
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As the above blurb states, A Matter of Magic is an omnibus containing two novles: Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward. This post is all about the first book, Mairelon the Magician, since I wanted to share my thoughts with you sooner rather than later. (I will hopefully have stuff to say about The Magician’s Ward in the near future.)
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book. I bought it because of the lovely cover, which made me curious about the stories inside. A Matter of Magic is set in a Regency England that’s filled with magic, making it hard to classify. It’s not high fantasy but there’s plenty of wizards. I’m tempted to liken it to a historical Harry Potter, in the sense that it’s the regular world plus magic. This may be an oversimplification of both author’s intentions but it’s the best I can do at the moment.
The central character in A Matter of Magic is Kim, a street kid in London with a talent for petty crime. She’s been on her own for a while and has been passing as a boy, but she’s starting to develop her more womanly attributes and is worried about how she’ll survive on the streets once folks realize she’s a girl. So when she’s offered money to break in and look around a magician’s caravan, it’s a no brainer, and this is what starts her adventure with Mairelon the Magician and his trusty and unattractive sidekick, Hunch.
The three characters are quite the group. Mairelon is a real wizard, traveling as a magic act, looking for stolen magical artifacts. He’s got a lot invested in his search as he was framed for their theft. Mairelon’s undoubtedly the character with the most complex backstory, which is gradually laid out over the course of the novel, though there is much left unexplained. Hunch, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward. He’s loyal to Mairelon and doesn’t trust Kim at all. Kim, from whose point of view the story is told, starts off wary and just looking for a way out of London. It’s a lot of fun watching Mairelon try to mold Kim into a useful assistant, as he teaches her magic tricks for the show and gives her acting advice. Their relationship is pleasantly platonic and I quite enjoyed watching the three characters learn to get along.
The mystery of who stole the magical artifacts and where they are now is well done. There are a bunch of twists and turns and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. And we get to learn a bit of how magic fits into Regency England and how it’s used, which I found satisfying.
My one complaint — and it’s a small one — is that there are a lot of secondary characters in the novel and it was sometimes hard to keep all of their relationships straight. This could just be me, as I read most of Mairelon the Magician before bed when I’m admittedly not at my sharpest, but I did feel a bit overwhelmed by their sheer numbers, particularly in the denouement of the book.
In any case, Mairelon the Magician ends by setting up the next book, The Magician’s Ward, and I look forward to seeing what Patricia C. Wrede has cooked up for Kim and Mairelon in their next outing.