Author: Stephanie Burgis
Published: Apr. 2011; Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young adult; Historical fiction
Synopsis: This first title in the Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson series evokes Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Alfred Noyes, and Libba Bray with tongue firmly in cheek. It’s 1803 and 12-year-old Kat must deal with her heritage of as-yet-untrained magic powers while saving her eldest sister from marriage to a wealthy cad old enough to be her father and helping the middle sister connect with her true love. Also in the mix are a loving but ineffectual father, a vicious stepmother, a dashing highwayman, and the mysterious “Order” of witches trying to recruit Kat for proper training in magic. Although it’s unlikely that young readers will be familiar with all the literary references, Burgis’ debut title rides on its swift pace and the delightfully feisty Kat, whose fearless and frequently impulsive actions will have readers cheering her on. Historical-fiction fans will enjoy this quick romp, and romance readers may discover Regency England’s charms, perhaps even enough to seek out Pride and Prejudice and other inspirations. Grades 6-10.
My Take: Even though I had made the declaration that Y.A. was not for me, this book was still in my 'as yet to be reviewed' pile from the publisher and I felt bad. I mean look at that cover? This book looks freaking adorable! I had to read it, even if I knew it wouldn't appeal to me so much by being the type of book that I like wherein I can relate to someone or learn something from the main character. I can at least get some historical fiction fun out of it.
Our little leading lady, Kat Stephenson, is about as precocious as they come. While she had a classic evil stepmom, she drove me crazy and I consider myself pretty easy going around kids. The poor girl just didn't know when to quit in social situations and well, you know, they had a lot more rules and regulations back then than they do now. See this book is set in 1803 England and Kat and her two older sisters are being raised to be nice young ladies. Her two older sisters, Ellie and Angeline, seem to be doing a good job at the social training but it doesn't seem to be sticking with Kat. She cuts her hair short, would prefer to play outside, and often finds herself generally getting into trouble.
Kat's mother passed away soon after she was born so she didn't really know her, and while her father is around, he appears to be more of the quiet type. What Kat soon realizes through the course of this book is that she and her deceased mother share a bond unlike any of her other sisters could ever hope to share, and she doesn't even really know what to do with it or how to handle it. I am talking about some serious magic powers here folks and I am not talking witchcraft! Something else far more serious and guarded. Throughout the course of this short novel you see Kat learn how to harness her magical powers but not before she gets into some serious mishaps in the middle.
So, all told, while I enjoyed the fact that some young readers are being introduced to my all time favorite genre of historical fiction from an early age and I always enjoy books with a little magic in them, it was kind of hard for me to root for Kat because she drove me a little batty!
This is turning into a series and for all of you who loved this book, the next book in the series, Renegade Magic, will be out in April so get excited to have some more fun adventures with Kat soon!
Cover Lust: This cover is seriously adorable!