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Patricia C. Wrede – Mairelon the Magician

April 21, 2010

40. Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede (1991)
Mairelon the Magician, Book 1

Length: 312 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor

Started: 10 April 2010, midway through hour 5 of the readathon.
Finished: 10 April 2010, midway through hour 10 of the readathon.

Where did it come from? Amazon.
Why do I have it? The Enchanted Forest Chronicles were/are some of my favorite books, and I really enjoyed the Sorcery and Cecelia books as well… and then I realized that Wrede also had a whole bunch of other books I hadn’t read yet!
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 24 March 2008.

Summary: Kim is a young woman who disguise herself as a boy to make a living picking pockets and thieving in the streets of Regency London. When she’s hired to break into the wagon of a man doing a magic act in the market, she thinks it’s easy money – after all, she doesn’t have to steal anything, she just has to take a look around. But when she gets into Mairelon’s wagon, she discovers that he’s not just a street performer… he really can do magic! Rather than get upset at the intrusion, Mairelon offers Kim a job, since he’s on a mission to track down some magical artifacts of immense power, and Kim’s street-urchin skills might just come in handy.

Review: Patricia C. Wrede has a flair with funny fantasy unlike anyone else I’ve ever read. Rather than the fairy-tale-spoof nature of her Enchanted Forest Chronicles, though, Mairelon the Magician was more in the vein of the Sorcery and Cecelia books she wrote with Caroline Stevermer – essentially a historical fantasy blended with a touch of a farce, although in this case told from the point of view of a young lady from a very different station in life. Kim’s an enjoyable character, though, as is Mairelon, both well-built enough to be interesting and sympathetic without endless character development slowing down the plot at all.

The plot is what I think I would call “lively” – definitely fast moving, with enough double-crossing and thievery to keep reader’s attention. It’s also wildly funny – both in the larger farcical scenes as well as in smaller moments or quick lines of dialogue. My only problem was the sheer number of secondary characters – all of whom seemed to be named Commonname J. Britishdude – so that at times it got confusing who was related to whom, and who was stealing from whom, and who’s secret motives were which. A re-read would certainly help sort that out, however. Now I just need to find a copy of the sequel, which is sadly out of print. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Mairelon is not quite as strong as Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, but if you like Regency fantasy, books with a good blend of wit, farce, and slapstick, or Wrede’s writing in general, then I’d definitely give this one a chance.

“Well?” Jasper said when Mairelon did not reply. “Who are you?”

“No, no,” Mairelon said. “I asked you first. I also, if you recall, asked you how you found this place and what you intend to do here, and you haven’t told me that, either.”

“We might ask you the same thing,” Jasper retorted.

“You might, but I don’t recommend it,” Mairelon said. “You’ll get a reputation as a poor conversationalist if all you can do is repeat what other people say to you.” — p. 182

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First Line: Kim walked slowly through the crowd, slipping in and out of the traffic almost without thinking.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 5: “Hungerford was the nearest she’d had to a home since old Mother Tibb dangled from the nubbing cheat, and even if all she had to do this time was a bit of snooping, it felt the same as nabbing a haddock from Red Sal’s stand when her back was turned.” – gallows.
  • p. 42: “For all he carried himself like Quality, he could call up half the canting crew from Covent Garden to the Tower of London if he had a need for them.” – underworld; beggars.
  • p. 91: “Through the screen of trees she was a coach-and-four making its slow, soggy way up the lane; the heads of two postillions were clearly visible above the coach’s roof.” – a person who rides the left horse of the leading or only pair of horses drawing a carriage.
  • p. 150: ““It was that Bedlamite in the domino with his pistol and his –“” – a large, hooded cloak with a mask covering the eyes, worn at masquerades.
  • p. 151: “”________ stands to benefit as much as you do if he recovers the platter, but he wouldn’t stand this havey-cavey nonsense for a minute.”” – suspicious.
  • p. 186: ““Interested in _________?” ________ snorted. “That won’t fadge, _________. Nobody could be interested in that simpleton.”” – To fit; to suit; to agree.
  • p. 204: ““‘E’s supposed to be rusticating right now, to get away from ‘is creditors.”” – to stay or sojourn in the country.
  • p. 238: “He was dressed for all the world as if he were paying a morning call at the height of the Season in London: Wellington coat, striped pantaloons, and Hussar buskins.” – a thick-soled, laced boot or half boot.
  • p. 246: “_________ stood calmly watching, as if he were observing a raree show that did not please him above half, though he made a point of keeping an eye on Mairelon as well as the row in the middle of the room.” – a street show.
  • p. 274: “His success was due only partially to his catching ________ completely off guard, Kim had to admit that the blow had been a regular wisty castor.” – A blow; a punch.
  • p. 281: ““We can’t! The duns would be after me the minute they got wind of it.”” – a person, esp. a creditor, who makes repeated and insistent demands for the payment of a debt.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2010 8:36 am

    Ha, it’s so true about the secondary characters and their names! I found the end scene confusing, where they’re all assembled and everyone’s got a different motive. But still, this has become one of my favorites of Wrede’s books, partly because I just love this world.

    • April 23, 2010 1:07 pm

      Jenny – That scene was kind of confusing, and definitely made me want to read it again, just to be sure I wasn’t thoroughly lost. I think my favorite (of what I’ve read so far) is probably Searching for Dragons – I love the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and I do kind of love Mendenbar.

  2. April 22, 2010 8:45 pm

    I loved the Enchanted Forest Chronicles in middle school and Caroline Stevermer has been on my reading list for ages… thank you for reminding me who wrote the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and this review makes her work outside sound very promising indeed!

    • April 23, 2010 1:08 pm

      Omni – Sorcery and Cecelia is definitely where you should start, then… it’s so much fun!


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