Sunday, November 16, 2008

Review: Bewitching Season

Bewitching Season
Marissa Doyle
2008; Henry Holt and Company; 978-0-8050-8251-7 (hardcover)

I had checked this book out once before, but I hadn't been able to start reading before I had to return it. I decided to take a second chance on it, and I'm so pleased I did, because I found an engaging, compelling mix of historical fiction, romance, and fantasy.

Persephone and Penelope Leland are twins that were born on the same day as Princess Victoria. They've always been interested in the princess, and they hope that when they go to London for their first Season that they might get a chance to meet her. Yet Persephone is very nervous about the balls, parties, and dinners that she'll have to attend. She'd much rather study and practice her magical abilities than try to catch a husband. Perhaps that's because she's already found the man of her dreams . . . not that she'll admit that to anyone.

Yet soon after their arrival in London, the twins are worried by the disappearance of their governess, Miss Allardyce. Not only has she been with them for ten years, but Miss Allardyce has taught the girls magic, instructing them in how to use their powers for good, not ill. As the girls receive signs that Miss Allardyce is in danger, they must unravel the plot that wishes to use Miss Allardyce's power to control Princess Victoria as she approaches her eighteenth birthday. Will they succeed? Will Persephone win her true love?

Not unlike Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecilia, this novel envisions a world where magic does exist. Unlike in that novel, however, magic in Bewitching Season is a secret, hidden from society as a whole. The fantastical elements are nicely woven into the plot, down to magic being a subject that is taught by a governess. Persephone and Penelope are not using magic for everyday actions; it's reserved for more extreme needs. And while magic is seen more as a domain for females, there are males in the novel who have an aptitude for it, including the twins' younger brother, Charles.

In addition, Bewitching Season is set in the period just before Victoria's accession to the throne, an unusual and rewarding choice of time period. Rather than the overused Regency period, Doyle sets her action thirty years later, in a time when many teens know little. This lends an additional freshness to the work for anyone who's read many works of historical fiction or romance. Coupled with the refreshing narration of Persephone and a sweet romance, this novel has something for everyone.

A truely enjoyable book, pass this novel along to fans of the "magic in the real world" concept. They might look at you askance because it's historical fiction, but most readers will quickly be sucked in by the well-developed characters, their easy interactions, and the intriguing story.

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