Thursday, March 31, 2011

Patrica Wrede

It’s hard to know exactly how I missed Wrede when I was a youth. I read almost exclusively fantasy.... Wrede writes fantasy. I loved historical fiction... Wrede writes historical fiction. In any case, I first heard of her when I picked up a copy of Sorcery and Cecelia a few years ago. I didn’t know it was a letter story when I started, or I probably wouldn’t have picked it up in the first place. However, the book was awesome! Wrede and her co-author Caroline Stevermer used the letter story as a framework and incorporated regular narrative fiction and often as I read it I forgot I was reading a letter. Some letter stories that I’ve read have one character that is a lot more interesting than the author and I want to skim over parts to get back to the good parts--but not this book.

Sorcery is set in Regency England in an alternate universe where magic exists. Kate and her cousin Cecelia get involved in a magical mystery and write each other about it. There is plenty of fun, magic, and romance in this book. The sequel, The Grand Tour, was pretty good, though I like Sorcery the best. The third book in the series, The Mislaid Magician Or Ten Years Later, was okay. The last part of the book just sums up the complicated plot rather than making it interesting and showing us something cool.

Wrede also wrote the Enchanted Forest series, the first of which is titled Dealing with Dragons. Subsequent books in the series are all some form of [verb]ing [article] Dragons. For example, the second book in the series is called Searching for Dragons. Years ago I made up my own versions of the titles, such as “Serving Afternoon Tea to Dragons,” and “Going to the Library with Dragons” and, “Reading a Robert Frost Poem with Dragons.” It’s kind of ironic that I liked this book so much since I constantly made fun of the title for years (my sister has known and loved Wrede far longer than I). Dealing is a fairy tale parody which pokes fun at conventions of the fantasy genre such as knights rescuing princesses and princesses themselves. It’s a short, fun read that would be appropriate for any age. I don’t know if these books are out of print but my local library doesn’t have the second one. I will definitely read it when I find it.

Wrede has a short story collection called Tales of Enchantment that I also really enjoyed. Some stories are silly and some are serious but they are all fantasy stories with interesting characters. The great thing about short stories is that you can easily read one, put the book down for a few days and come back to it without feeling lost. My favorite story in this collection, “Earthwitch,” is about sacrifice and war and regretting lost loves.

The Thirteenth Child is Wrede’s most recent book. I was really eager to read this book, which is the first in a series called “Frontier Magic.” I’d never heard of anyone who created a Frontier altaverse. The concept of this book is great--a girl is the 13th child and her twin is the seventh son of a seventh son. Therefore she is supposed to be incredibly unlucky and he is supposed to be a powerful magician. Different characters react differently to these stereotypes and in the end, Eff, the main character, finds her own place in the world. I am excited to read further book and thought this was a great idea but sometimes the book fell flat. The first three quarters of the book summarizes Eff’s life from birth to age 18 and is naturally very episodic. I would have preferred to read more action and less summary. However, I still enjoyed it.

Wrede is a great fantasy author who is not afraid to poke fun at the genre. I think even people who don’t love fantasy would enjoy her stories. My favorite by far is Sorcery and Cecelia and I would recommend starting out with that book if you want to give her a try!

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