Author: Stephanie Burgis
Publication: Atheneum (April 5, 2011)
Description: Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she's inherited her mother's magical talents, and despite Stepmama's stern objections, she's determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa's intended fiancÉ, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat's magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat's reckless heroism will be tested to the utmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love?
My Thoughts: This was a wonderful historical romance in an alternate England when magic exists. Kat is the youngest of four children of a vicar. Her mother died shortly after her birth. She was raised by her older sisters. Now her father has remarried and her stepmother is determined to raise the girls with all propriety.
Because her brother Charles has gotten the family hopelessly in debt, her oldest sister is determined to marry well to save the family. Rumor has it that Sir Neville's first wife was murdered -- by Sir Neville. Since Elisse, oldest sister, is determined to be a Gothic heroine and sacrifice herself for her family, it is up to Kat to come up with a scheme to save her.
The middle sister Angeline is a witch. She has her mother's books of spells. She is also determined to find a way to save her older sister. Maybe a spell to find her own true love will work. Witchcraft is very scandalous in society. The family would be outcast if people found out she was a witch.
Kat snoops and reads some of the magic books. But she really learns her destiny when she searches the cupboard where her stepmother has stored all of her mother's things. She finds a golden mirror that takes her to a magical place where she is told that she is a Guardian. She is also told that her mother was a Guardian but was exiled for practicing magic. She meets two people there. One is a man who says he wants to be her tutor. The other is a snooty woman who tries to lock up Kat's magic. Kat doesn't want to be part of an organization that exiled her mother.
Kat turns them down. She is busy enough trying to save her sister from an unwanted marriage with an evil man. The book is full of adventures as Kat comes up with a variety of schemes to rescue her sister. Everything comes together at a house party that the family attends so that Elissa can be paraded before the evil Sir Neville.
The book is filled with familiar characters from Gothic novels -- the distracted father, the evil suitor, the penniless younger son, the overbearing stepmother. But they all work marvelously well in this entertaining Gothic novel for middle schoolers. I read the eARC but can hardly wait to get a print copy for my high school media center.
After all, no matter what Sir Neville thought he was up to, this ought to be a perfect opportunity for advancing my own schemes. if I wanted to find a way to save Elissa from him, what could be better than a private conversation, to find out what he really wanted?