Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Sorcery and Cecelia

Go To
Magical intrigue, murderous plots, and matching gloves.

Sorcery & Cecelia (or, to give it its full title, Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country) is a Historical Fantasy novel by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede, set in an Alternate History version of Regency England with wizards. It is an Epistolary Novel, consisting of the letters written by Cecelia to her cousin Kate and Kate's letters to Cecelia.

Kate is in London being overshadowed by her socially adept and flighty younger sister, and becomes entangled in a feud between the mysterious Marquis of Schofield and the even more mysterious Miranda, who is probably a sorceress. Cecelia is initially chagrined to be stuck at home in Essex, but soon finds plenty to occupy herself, some of which turns out to have a bearing on Kate's problems in London.

The first draft of the novel was written as a game between the two authors: Stevermer wrote Kate's letters and sent them to Wrede, and Wrede wrote Cecelia's letters and sent them to Stevermer.

Sorcery and Cecelia was originally published in 1988. It was brought back into print in 2003, followed by two newly written sequels, known in the short form as The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician.

Stevermer has also written a solo children's novel in the same setting, Magic Below Stairs, set in the Marquis of Schofield's servants' quarters.

Sorcery and Cecelia and its sequels provide examples of:

  • Badass Normal: James, former aide de camp to Wellington, and who constantly gets mixed up in magical mayhem despite having zero ability for it. This actually comes quite in handy in The Mislaid Magician.
  • Beta Couple: She may have her name in the title and shoulder half the plot, but otherwise Cecelia and her love interest tick a lot of the boxes.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Do not mess with Kate's loved ones. Or goats.
  • Blood Magic: This was apparently quite common in pre-Roman times, allowing barbarian sorcerers to level mountains and reroute rivers even with their comparatively crude spellcraft. The ultimate antagonist of The Grand Tour turns out to be a modern enchantress who has rediscovered some of the old spells and is trying to put together a very specific Human Sacrifice to grant herself a tremendous amount of magical power.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Aunt Elizabeth, a former magician who swore off her powers after her fiancé was killed by Sir Hilary, and now holds all magic users in contempt. She gets over it, though.
  • The Call Has Bad Reception:
    • In The Grand Tour, it is revealed that Kate, who had previously come across as the Distaff Counterpart to Badass Normal James, has just as much magical talent as her cousin Cecelia, but has no interest in developing it.
    • In The Mislaid Magician, Kate thinks that she isn't a very good magician because she can only do three things with magic — locate her husband and/or children no matter where they are, contact her husband and/or children no matter where they are, and keep her hair up. Cecelia points out that those are the only three things that she has any interest in doing that she needs magic to do.
  • Catchphrase: Cecy: "We simply must do something!"
  • Contrived Clumsiness: Cecelia disposes of the chocolate pot in the first book by pretending to "accidentally" spill it.
  • Consummate Liar: Kate, though according to Thomas it's actually her untrained magic rendering those who listen to her Super Gullible.
  • Cool Train: Not necessarily the trains themselves, but they do really weird things to England's ley lines.
  • Dance of Romance: Cecy and James first meet at a dance. When Kate and Thomas decide to make their fake engagement a real one, they dance along the streets, at night, all the way home.
  • Disability Immunity: In The Mislaid Magician, James is the only member of the group who is immune to the spell to turn wizards into dogs because he is the only one of the four with no magical talent.
  • Don't Tell Mama: Only without mothers, it's usually "Don't Tell Aunt Charlotte/Elizabeth."
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: At the beginning of her Season, Kate has no partners at her first dance except for one who seemed rather distracted during the dance and immediately afterward claimed his dance with her sister, making the sister's magnanimity a little too blatant for Kate.
  • Dumb Blonde:
    • Georgy is often referred to by Cecy and Kate as a peagoose. In all fairness, she never challenges that perception.
    • Dorothea comes across as this to most people. At least she's actually rather sweet, if easily manipulated.
  • Epistolary Novel: The first book is composed of letters between Kate (who is in London being Presented To Society) and Cecilia (who was left back in the country). The third book includes letters between all four members of the main couples.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Sir Hilary Bedrick makes extensive use of spells to steal other people's magic, killing them or driving them mad in the process.
  • French Maid: Played with. Walker is French, but she is a "respectable person" and has trouble finding good work because no one believes this about her.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Georgy is the pretty one. Kate is the smart one (not that Aunt Charlotte acknowledges this). Of course, Kate is perfectly pretty herself, it's only that Georgy is so beautiful as to be the talk of the Ton.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Dorothea is only being used and is actually a perfectly sweet, if spineless girl.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Lady Sylvia has worn only black for years in honor of her husband and elder son.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
    • George IV of England (both as Prince Regent and monarch)
    • A certain Princess Alexandrina... who is far better known by her middle name.
  • Lady of Adventure: Lady Sylvia has the most amazing widowhood in all Regency England.
  • Magical Society: There is a Royal Society of wizards, comparable to the Royal Society of scientists in real history; the induction of a character into the Society is a key plot point in the first book.
  • Missing Mom: Cecelia's mother died when she was very little.
  • Noodle Incident: We never do learn about what happened with Squire Bryant's goat. We do find out that Georgy started it.
  • Older Than They Look: Miranda Griscomb. She went to school with Lady Sylvia, who is well into her sixties.
  • Open-Minded Parent:
    • In an era where parents were very protective of their daughters, Arthur Rushton is amazingly chill with what his daughter gets up to.
    • Lady Sylvia is a pretty cool parent too, even if she makes some rather caustic offhand comments about Thomas, regardless of whether he is in the room or not.
  • Parental Substitute: Cecelia et al were raised by a pair of maiden aunts. Aunt Elizabeth seems to have done a much better job than Aunt Charlotte.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kate delivers an epic one to Aunt Charlotte before moving out of the flat.
    Kate: And moreover, Papa has always referred to you as 'that interfering harpy'.
  • Royalty Super Power: In this setting, there are numerous ancient coronation rituals that would make someone the rightful ruler of various nations, tribes, and kingdoms. The exact effects vary, but it usually grants inhuman charisma and improves the ruler's luck, especially when trying to hold onto or reconquer "their" kingdom. Such rituals tend to be extremely finicky in their requirements, however, so they are rarely used in the modern day.
  • Scrapbook Story: The first sequel is composed of excerpts from Kate's diary and Cecelia's deposition to the British government, rather than of letters the two write to each other.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: When Kate and Cecy find out that some of Sir Hilary's magic got into the chocolate pot Thomas was using to focus his spells, and Sir Hilary is using the connection to drain Thomas, they repeatedly wonder why Thomas didn't just smash the thing and make a new one. Cecy makes up for lost time by doing exactly that.
  • The Un-Favourite: Kate, who is always shuffled aside by her guardian Aunt Charlotte in favor of Georgy, blamed for Georgy's misbehavior such as gambling and made to wear the same clothes even when they don't suit her at all. At the end of The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Kate snaps back, stands up for herself and moves out.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Kate is implied to have at least as much raw potential as Cecy or Thomas, but she only ever cared to learn three spells: one to find things, one to keep her hair up, and one to call Thomas. In The Mislaid Magician, when Edward gets kidnapped and Kate puts her full power behind the finding spell, Thomas says that with the amount of force she gave it, the spell would have found Edward even if he'd been shipped off to Fiji.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Oliver. His idea of riveting conversation is to discuss the knotting of a tie.
  • Violently Protective Wife: In The Mislaid Magician, Kate mixes this with Mama Bear. Even in dog form. Cecelia also has this for James to some extent.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Of the laconic variety.
    Thomas: (to Kate) "I like the idea of marrying you. I think we shall deal extremely well."
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Miranda Griscomb. Technically it's a powdered wig, but the style is still anachronistic. This later turns out to be a clue to her real age.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Miranda to Dorothea. She plans to marry Dorothea to Thomas Schofield as part of her plot against him.
  • Young Future Famous People: Queen Victoria makes an appearance in the third book.