Saturday, July 14, 2012

Courtship & Curses by Marissa Doyle

 It's 1815, and Sophie should be excited about her coming out to London society, but illness has made her walk with a limp, and she knows the only match she'll make for herself is one that's after her money.  Finding a husband loses its importance when Sophie realizes someone is using magic to attack the members of the War Cabinet, including her father!  It's up to Sophie to figure out who's behind it, all the while trying to keep her own magic a secret.

A delightful romp!  I thoroughly enjoyed this.  It was light and quick and pleasure to read.  Sophie and her friend Parthenope (name of a siren in Greek mythology, I knew it had to come from somewhere) were absolutely delightful, especially Parthenope who acted completely out of character for a English lady in 1815, what with her mouthing off and punching a rakish young man in the nose (he deserved it).  Parthenope was completely over the top, yet a very sweet, caring character and I loved reading her.

Marissa Doyle reveals that the disease that crippled Sophie would have been polio.  I found Sophie's dealing with her disability realistic.  She's resigned to the fact that (as her aunts keep reminding her) no one is going to want to marry a girl with a bad leg.  She believes she'll have to settle for someone who's mostly after her money.  She also grows very angry that people see that she has a bad leg and therefore assume other things are wrong with her too.  People believe her to be a hunchback, or be "simple."  Disability during this time period was even worse than it is now.  Sophie doesn't want to be pitied most of all, which what gets her and Mr. Woodbridge off on the wrong first.

As much as Sophie tells people she strong and capable, she begins to realize she has let what's happen to her make her afraid.  Ever since her illness, she hasn't been able to call on her magic easily, and sometimes not at all.  Sophie at first thinks her magic must have somehow been damaged during her sickness, but starts to see that it might be herself that's stopping it.  I thought this was a nice parallel to how me can build walls around ourselves when something bad happens.  In order to make ourselves strong, we don't let other people in to help, even when we might need it.

It was also pretty great that there was no way to magic her disability away.  Even Sophie's mother, who was also a witch, wasn't able to stop disease.  Fantasy has a tendency to compensate for disability through magical means.  Something might disable a character, but they're almost always able to overcome it through magic, so they aren't permanently disabled.  Sophie is permanently disabled, and she deals with it.

So with all that making it sound probably a lot more serious than it is, it was full of adventure and magic and time-appropriate clothing (including Sophie's fabulous collection of canes, one for each outfit) and fear of Napoleon who has just escape from Elba and has taken back the throne!  Blast that Napoleon.  Oh, happy Bastille Day everyone!

This is the third book in the Leland Sisters series, and I have not read the first two.  This seems to be OK, as the fist two are about a girl named Persephone Leland who didn't come into this book at all.  So it seems to work fine as a stand along.

Courtship & Curses comes out August 7, 2012.

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