I am currently working my way through the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and loving it. Since I’m listening to the audiobooks pretty much any time I can, I’ve found myself thinking in a formal British accent and considering my other favorite mashups of fantasy and regency. (Not all fantasy novels take place in medieval villages, after all.) Here are six books that imagine what Regency England would have been like with magic:
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. With England’s source of magic dwindling and Napolean’s army threatening across the channel, two unorthodox magicians must navigate assassination attempts, high society, and the corrupt bureaucracy surrounding England’s Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers. My full review is here.
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis is the first in a middle grade series about twelve-year-old Katherine Anne Stephenson. This is more about bucking convention than drawing room drama, but it’s a great introduction to the subgenre for young readers and their parents alike.
Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer is perfectly delightful. It feels more like an actual regency novel than the first two, but not in a stilted way. The book is made up of letters between two eligible young ladies who happen to be cousins and burgeoning magicians. The book is written by two talented authors in their own rights, which is a technique I enjoy when done well. NPR chose Sorcery and Cecilia for its summer reading club in 2005, so you can read an excerpt on their website here.
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal is more regency romance than magical adventure. I thought the first book was a little slow moving, but the way magic fits in polite society was fascinating to me. Despite the slow start, the series really picks up as it gets going.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke is amazing. It is also over 1000 pages long. The reading (or in my case, listening) experience was completely immersive. The audio narration was so fantastic! I highly recommend it if you have a long road trip or commute to fill. (Or in my case, many loads of laundry to fold.) Clarke created an entire history of English magic to support the main plotlines in her tale, and the care and detail is obvious at every turn. My full review is here.
Newt’s Emerald: Magic, Maids, and Masquerades by Garth Nix is from the author of Sabriel (another book I’d highly recommend). The story is part adventure, part romance. I spent a fair amount of time studying Spanish Golden Age literature in college, and one of the common devices of the age was the hilarity and tension that ensue when characters fall in love in disguise. Since Lady Truthful spends much of the book disguised as a man, I eagerly anticipated some of the same shenanigans. (I was not disappointed.)
Even though I’ve been reading these types of book with pleasure for years, I had no idea there was a name for the subgenre. Since starting this post, I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit reading all about gaslamp fantasy and even more titles to try. Have you read any magical stories from Regency or Victorian England? Which ones?