Historical Fantasy: The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

The lovely authors at the Enchanted Inkpot have a recent post up that explains the difference between urban fantasy, high fantasy, historical fantasy, paranormal, magical realism, and reality-based fantasy. It's a handy little cheat-sheet, and it's a perfect link to open today's post about one of my favorite recent works of historical fantasy: Sorcery and Cecelia: Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. I tried to read this book as a teenager once I'd discovered Patricia Wrede's other books, but somewhere in the first chapter I stalled out. At the time I hadn't read much in the way of Georgette Heyer either, and La Heyer is the clear precursor to this wonderful little gem of a novel. That influence is clear in both the lightness of the language and in both Kate and Cecelia's spunky and strong-willed natures.

It's one of the more unusual novels in terms of structure: not only is it epistolary, and takes the form of a series of letters from one heroine to another, but it was written via letters between the two authors, with only a few conversations about timing and nothing about how the two separate plotlines were going to work out. And yet the book feels unified, connected by the characters' shared history and affection and proffered pieces of advice to one another.

This story is a perfect example of how limitations on a story can work to a book's benefit—the result of two talents working together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. The fact that neither author knew the end of the other's story means the questions our heroines ask and the advice they give is realistic and relatable. The men are a bit of a mystery, as we never see inside their heads—but that just adds to the charm of the old-fashioned Regency romance vibe.

I also highly recommend the second in the series, The Grand Tour, and I have the third as a used hardback on my TBR pile.

I have never been more glad to give a novel a second chance.

{Next up: the brilliance of Diana Wynne Jones and specifically Fire and Hemlock.}