Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Monday, May 7, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Magic and Afternoon Tea

It's finals week and I have a huge end-of-semester paper due in, oh, 43 minutes. So instead of writing a whole new post for Literary Lunes I went through old unfinished posts and found this one. There's no description of the third book on the list, so just take my word for it that it's a great book.

I'm a fan of alternate history fantasies that take place in England. You know, the magicians are shooting each other with their magic wands and then take a break to eat cucumber sandwiches. This is how I like things. If Lord Byron is in them, all the better.

Here is a sampling of such alt histories, and if anyone has suggestions for more, please comment or send an email.

1. Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Sorcery and Cecelia
is a bit like Jane Austen plus magic. Austen but more playful and slightly more risque. A Mysterious Marquis, a fake marriage, an enchanted chocolate pot: Could it get any better? And yes, it does have Lord Byron. I suggest you read Katie’s blog post on it.

2. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

This is an England in which the government consists of magicians, and the magicians get their power from summoning and enslaving djinni. What makes this series is the protagonist Bartimaeus, a sassy and sarcastic 5000-year-old djinn. Bartimaeus was the djinn of Gilgamesh and helped build Uruk, spoke with Solomon, assasinated Gengis Khan, and did many other things as the slave of magicians.

I read the first book, The Amulet of Samarkand, in June 2008. I loved the fresh and funny voice of Bartimaeus. The second book, The Golem's Eye, I didn't like nearly as much, I can't remember quite why but I think Stroud was getting a bit melodramatic. However, there was a character, Honorius the insane djinn trapped in the skeleton of a prime minister, who was fabulous. The third book, Ptolemy's Gate, was back in form. By this point, of course, things in England are getting chaotic and tension is growing and everything is building towards a grand epic climax. But more interestingly to me, we are finally learning information about one of Bartimaeus's masters, one twelve-year-old boy from 126 BC named Ptolemy.

Hm. I guess it doesn't do much good for me to talk about the third book if you haven't read the first and second, so I'll stop there. To sum up the trilogy: Thoroughly entertaining. Entertaining is really the best word for it.

3. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

One of my favorite books. Just read it.


  1. Have you ever read the Thursday Next series?! Britain! Books! Alternate history! Bizarre humor! Ooooh, you must if you haven't. I will bring them to you :)

  2. Thursday that the one where the first book involves Jane Eyre? Is it a mystery? Jasper Fforde, maybe?

    Whether or not it's not series I'm thinking of, it sounds good! Thanks!

    1. Yep, that's it! I love Jasper Fforde.