This is another one that I’ve been seeing a lot of love for on all the blogs. I was possessed of such a strong desire to read it, even though the library where I work didn’t own it, that I took the radical step of making a special trip to the library in my hometown, both children in tow, to find it. With renewed love and respect for my love, who does this nearly every weekend I’m at work, I went in for one book and came out with 27, mostly not for me.
Kat, Incorrigible. The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson Book 1. by Stephanie Burgis.
The setting is Austen-era England. Magic is real, but considered terribly improper, and especially frowned on by the church. Twelve-year-old Kat, our heroine, is the youngest of four, including a brother, Charles, and two older sisters, Elissa and Angeline. Their mother died when Kat was born, and her father remarried. None of the children get along very well with Stepmama, but Stepmama finds willful, wayward Kat a special challenge. She’s trying to impress on all the girls that their first duty is to make a marriage that will be financially advantageous to the family. Kat, naturally, finds the very notion horrid. When she discovers that she’s inherited their mother’s illicit magic, and that her oldest sister, Elissa, is being courted by the sinister Sir Neville, she decides to do everything in her (very untrained) power to save her sister.
Those bare bones are fun enough, but Burgis puts in a whole lot of related plots and interesting details. Should Kat believe the Mr. Gregson who claims to have been her mother’s tutor, but who seems to feel that her mother failed by getting married to her father? And what will become of the handsome young man who insists on following Angeline around everywhere? There are highwaymen in swirling black cloaks, and touching reflections on familial love and duty. This is solidly middle grade girl, with nothing inappropriate and plenty of excitement both for the target audience and older fans of Regency and fantasy.
I gobbled this right up and passed it on to my mother before returning it, getting a report back of someone having stayed up into the wee hours with Kat. And since my home library doesn’t have any of the two sequels, I prevailed upon our youth fiction librarian to buy the whole series, so I can finish it.