My Favorite Subgenre: Mairelon The Magician

We here at Olivia Waite love to use twelve words when three would do the trick. It's a fault, but it's our fault, and one that we probably will not shed without great effort. But at times, it's hugely inconvenient.

For instance, when we want to define the kind of romances we love reading more than any other, we have to fall back on the term historical fantasy romance because it is pleasantly concise. If pressed for more detail, though, we can explain more precisely that we love books about magic set in otherwise normal areas of past history, quite usually the 19th century, and quite usually London or other parts of the British Empire. With love stories.

And for this taste, there is only one book to blame: Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede. I consider this book a romance, though the romance plot is really mostly contained in the sequel, The Magicians's Ward. The first book grabbed me as a kid and never once let go: it's got a cross-dressing heroine from the lower classes, a thief, who would do just about anything to get away from the terrifying underbelly of London. Even break into the wagon of a disreputable magic-user, who turns out to be a disgraced member of the aristocracy (and incredibly powerful magician) on the lam as he tries to find the real thief of a powerful set of artifacts. It's The Fugitive meets Harry Potter meets Georgette Heyer. There's a library break-in scene, a hapless young dandy who gets in over his head, a gruff but soft-hearted manservant—the works.

I've read it more times than I can count, and ever since I've been on the lookout for things just like it. They were few and far between for many years, but lately they've been easier and easier to find. (One more reason to give thanks for the internets.) Over the summer, I'm going to showcase at least one of these books per week, in the hopes that kind commenters will chime in and let me know about more.

{Next week: more Patricia Wrede goodness with Sorcery and Cecelia: Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot!}