by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Published: Open Road Media Young Readers;
Digital edition (May 22, 2012)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: own book
First - if you have not read Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
You need to read that book first. I suppose technically this is a self-contained story but if you read it first: a) you won't have the emotional connection with the main characters that you need to make this an enjoyable read and b) there are several spoilers for Sorcery & Cecelia which would make that novel much less fun to read. And honestly, Sorcery & Cecelia is the better book.
The Grand Tour basically picks up right after the action of the previous novel ends. The previous novel was in the form of an epistolary novel, written as a series of letters between Kate (authored by Caroline Stevermer) and Cecelia (Patricia Wrede) (i.e. written as a letter game.) This time the novel is presented by alternating Kate's private journal entries with a transcript of Cecy's deposition to the Joint Representatives of the British Ministry of Magic. The result is a much less even in tone and occasionally has some odd repetition.
Cousins Kate and Cecy are newly married to Thomas Schofield and James Tarelton, and are taking a wedding trip on the continent with Thomas’s mother, Lady Sylvia. Napoleon is imprisoned at St. Helena and the continent is in the process of rebuilding. The history should be fairly familiar, but this world includes magic. Thomas and Lady Sylvia are wizards, and Cecelia is a journeyman sorcerer. As soon as they land in France, odd things begin happening, including delivery of a mysterious package by the Lady in Blue. The travelers eventually realize that there is a plot afoot to steal items to use in the reconstruction of an ancient magic spell. They set out to foil the plot in a race against time and across Europe.
So - first the good news. The story is quite fun to read and has lots of good lines. The characters are engaging and there is none of the cheap intraparty feuding or 'big misunderstandings' that can dominate Regency or travel novels. Instead you have two strong marriages where the partners are not only very much in love, but also (for the most part) respect each other. Despite one major author's recent contentions, the story does not stop just because characters get married, and married life does not have to be boring.
The bad news - this story is definitely not as engaging or fast paced as Sorcery & Cecelia, is way too dependent on lucky coincidences and the plot is rather convoluted in a scattered rather than intricate way.
Now I will take coincidences over massive plot holes pretty much any day, so as long as you are willing to suspend disbelief this is still quite a fun novel to read, but it does not recapture the really sparkling ingenuity of the first novel.
Some quotes that caught my eye:
"Shrieking is indispensable, as is some kitchen mishap to spoil the meal we have ordered. Many doors must be slammed, before and after one shrieks ... These are not the only incidents to provoke the shrieking. There are others, some of which seem to originate from nothing but the pure desire to shriek. I think I begin to understand the impulse."
"If we looked like something the cat dragged in, it must have been a very undiscriminating cat, indeed."
"shouldn't there be some sort of mathematical limit to the number of gloves I can lose? Some upper theoretical boundary? Given the laws of probability?"
Overall four claws
(and FYI Sorcery & Cecelia would be a 4.5 or even a 5 - I would have to re-read it to decide).