Originally published in 1988, I first read Sorcery and Cecelia after its re-release in 2004. Happily, that meant I didn’t have quite as long a wait for a sequel as Kate and Cecy’s original fans. Released in 2006, The Grand Tour or The Purloined Coronation Regalia picks up shortly after the end of Sorcery and Cecelia with both cousins newly married and beginning their honeymoons with an English tradition known aptly as the grand tour during which they plan to travel through the great cities of Europe. Like its prequel, this novel also has an extended title to offer further enlightenment as to what the story will actually relate. That title is: Being a Revelation of Matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, Including Extracts from the Intimate Diary of a Noblewoman and the Sworn Testimony of a Lady of Quality.
While the plot of this novel does stand alone, I don’t recommend reading this book before the first in the series because it just isn’t as fun that way. Part of the great thing about these books is watching the girls grow and tracing the relationships between the characters–things that are harder to do without reading the books in order.
(That said, a quick recap: The happily married couples are Kate and Thomas Schofield, Cecy and James Tarleton. My favorite couple is Cecelia and James. Thomas is a wizard, and Cecy is just realizing that she also has a magical aptitude. These novels are written with a variation of the Letter Game. Patricia C. Wrede is Cecelia and Caroline Stevermer is Kate.)
Instead of being written in alternating letters, this volume alternates between excerpts from Cecelia’s deposition to the Joint Representatives of the British Ministry of Magic, the War Office, and the Foreign office; and excerpts from Kate’s . Joining the couples on part of their wedding(s) journey is Lady Sylvia, another wizard of note in England (and Thomas’ mother).
Expecting a leisurely honeymoon, and the chance to purchase proper bride clothes and secure the services of maids, both Cecelia and Kate are dismayed when their quiet grand tour turns into nothing less than a race to prevent an international conspiracy of Napoleanic proportions. As the couples tour Europe’s great antiquities–and meet their fair share of unique tourists–the young women, and their husbands, begin to piece together a plot the likes of which no one could have previously imagined.
Like Sorcery and Cecelia this novel once again serves as a lovely homage to Jane Austen. The pacing and tone of The Grand Tour is again reminiscent of Austen’s work (or George Eliot’s for that matter). Nonetheless, some of the plot did seem more difficult to follow than, say, the first book in this series though the problem was remedied with back-reading. I love these characters unconditionally, in a way I rarely love book characters. Artless, charming, and profoundly entertaining, both Cecelia and Kate are first-rate characters in a first-rate fantasy series.
Possible Pairings: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, A Room With a View by E. M. Forster, The Clockwork Scar by Colleen Gleason, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows; Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Beauty by Robin McKinley, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Iron Cast by Destiny Soria, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde