I love the Sorcery and Cecilia series by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, so I was excited to stumble across a companion book recently. Magic Below Stairs by Caroline Stevermer revisits the world of the series from a new point of view. You don’t need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy this one, though I think it would add more meaning to some parts.
The series is about two women, Kate and Cecilia, who marry a couple of magicians, Thomas and James (respectively!) They’re aristocracy of some sort; Magic Below Stairs comes from the other side of the social strata, and focuses on Frederick. He notices strange happenings at the orphanage where he lives, and discovers that their cause is Billie Bly, a house brownie. Billie Bly has attached himself to Frederick, and when Frederick is chosen to join Kate and Thomas’ household as a new servant, Billy Bly comes too–which Thomas does not appreciate at all. Meanwhile, there’s also a nasty curse lying in wait.
This actually felt oddly like a Diana Wynne Jones book. You have the earnest young boy, the absent-minded magician, and a looming threat. And it’s all set in a grand English manor.
Stevermer’s website tells me this is set in Victorian Britain. I’m not good at all at keeping straight different eras of British history (unless you give me an actual event to measure by–the Battle of Trafalgar, say, or the life of Shakespeare), so I just knew this was set somewhere back in the past when manor houses had entire staffs of servants hard at work below stairs. Part of the fun of this book is seeing the world from that perspective. This is especially true because this isn’t a book about the oppressed lower classes, which you do see sometimes. The servants here actually seem a fairly contented lot who are fond of Thomas and Kate.
Saying that this reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones is a high compliment, of course. 🙂 This is a fairly short book without a huge amount of depth, but it’s a fun read with good characters and some nice humor at times. And if you try it and enjoy it, you should definitely go on to the longer and more complicated Sorcery and Cecilia books!
Author’s Site: http://members.authorsguild.net/carolinestev/