Elodie, the dragon Masteress Meenore, and the ogre County Jonty Um are all on their way to Elodie’s home island of Lahnt. Just five weeks before, Elodie left for the town of Two Castles with nothing but a single copper in her purse, and now she is returning a professional dragon detective’s assistant and friend to a count! Elodie has barely set foot on Lahnt before she learns that it is in terrible danger. The Replica, a statue that keeps a deadly volcano from erupting, has been stolen from its mountain home. If the Replica isn’t found in three days, a mountain will be destroyed and its inhabitants will be killed. And when Elodie is left without her companions, she has to use her wits to try to unravel a tangled web of lies and save her island home.
I didn’t think Stolen Magic was half as good as A Tale of Two Castles. It has that “tacked-on sequel due to popular demand” feel to it, where the author tries to recapture the essence of the first novel and fails. The plot tries to be a decent mystery but there are so many characters introduced all at once that it’s hard to follow and the world seems small and cramped compared to the first novel. There’s also way too many logical leaps done at the very beginning, with Elodie immediately jumping to “The Replica’s been stolen!” even though there’s really no believable way she could have reached that conclusion as quickly as she did. In addition, the entire book pretty much takes place in one area, and most of the time the characters are simply talking at a table.
Even Levine seemed to realize how inactive the plot was, and so interspersed the mystery aspect with snapshots of Jonty Um, andeventually Meenore, helping the inhabitants of Lahnt escape to safety. But those are so obviously placed there to increase the pace that it makes the book seem sloppily put together. It also makes it so that the reader knows some things before the characters, which I never like because that sort of anticipation as the reader waits for the characters to catch up is rarely done well. It tends to become more irritation than anticipation.
Stolen Magic is, in a way, aptly named, because it steals the magic found in the first book right out of existence and turns it into a trudge of a mystery that’s only slightly interesting. All the “bee” characters introduced all at once made things hard to follow, there was too much talking across tables and too many back-and-forth accusations, and the whole thing felt rushed and poorly done. Sequels written years after the first book are rarely done well, because they often tend to reek of fan service and poorly-conceived thinking and plotting. And, unfortunately, it looks like even Gail Carson Levine, as divine as some of her books are, is not immune to this sort of blunder.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“Might the thief escape in your absence, Madam, now that the blizzard has ended?”
“He wouldn’t get far on foot in this snow. If he wanted a horse, he’d have to come here.”
“He or she wouldn’t get far. If he or she wanted…Lodie, can you forgo sleep tonight?”
She nodded. She’d done so before for IT.
“High Brunka, can you show Lodie in secret where the Replica had been kept?”
With just days to go before her sister Angeline’s long-delayed wedding to Frederick Carlyle, the impetuous Kat Stephenson has resigned herself to good behavior. But Kat’s initiation into the magical Order of the Guardians is fast approaching, and trouble seems to follow her everywhere. First, Kat must contend with the wretched Mrs. Carlyle’s attempts to humiliate her sister; the arrival of the mysterious Marquise de Valmont, who bears suspicious resemblance to Kat’s later mother; and Frederik’s bewitching cousin Jane, who has Charles Stephenson tripping over his feet. But when a menacing boy with powerful magic starts hunting Kat, a dastardly villain tries to kill Angeline, and the guardians face a magical robbery that could spell the end of their Order, propriety becomes the least of Kat’s concerns. Can Kat save her sister’s life, the Order of the Guardians, and England itself before it’s too late?
Despite my dislike of Kat in Kat, Incorrigibleand Renegade Magic, I was holding out hope that she would start to mature a little in Stolen Magic. There were signs in Renegade Magic that she was, so despite my overall dislike of that book, I still looked forward to this one. However, I was sorely disappointed, because Kat continues to be the annoying, irresponsible and rash protagonist that she was in the first two books. If you like that about her, then great, you’ll love this book. I, however, do not, so I didn’t.
Once again, Burgis completely eliminates potential development and maturation of Kat by throwing the option into Kat’s face and then having Kat refuse it. In addition, other characters point out her flaws and she continues to ignore them and acts in the same way, and it’s very frustrating to read. Throughout all three books, Kat continues to jump to conclusions in the exact same manner, and I just do not like characters who are stuck in their development like that.
I didn’t comment much on it in the past two books, but the attitude of adults towards Kat also does not make any sense to me. Lady Fotherington’s intense hatred of a thirteen-year-old just does not seem plausible, and neither do her attempts at sabotaging said thirteen-year-old. Also implausible was Elissa refusing to tell people that she was pregnant merely because Burgis wanted some further scandal angst to throw at her characters.
Also, this book was really dark for a children’s book. I was actually shocked by how dark it got.
Some positives: I did like the character of Alexander and the hints of what will happen in the future (probably to be confirmed in Courting Magic, a novella sequel to this book). I also really like Angeline and Frederick together, and Charles is another good character that slightly lessened my irritation of Kat.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Domestic violence, gun violence.
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
“Oh, Cousin,” Jane Carlyle said. She was wiping her eyes with her handkerchief, which was small and dainty and pink, and perfectly embroidered with the letters JC. “You cannot be any more horrified by the idea than I am, I promise you. When I think of your notoriously murderous tendencies—”
“His what?” growled Charles. It was the first time he’d managed a coherent phrase since her arrival, and his tone was so full of menace that she blinked rapidly and took a step away from him.
Frederick Carlyle only grinned. “Never fear, Stephenson,” he said. “My murderous tendencies, as my cousin likes to call them, began and ended with her favorite doll, and only when she’d aggravated me past bearing by throwing my best pair of Hessian boots into the sea…and purely because she found that I’d been playing cards regularly at Eton, just like every other fellow there. My cousin has a bit of a fixation, you know.”
I really want to like Stolen Magic, and the Kat, Incorrigible series in general, but I find Kat such a frustrating and annoying protagonist that I end up cheering every time someone yells at her. I do like the secondary characters, though, and this series would probably be a lot of fun for someone who doesn’t mind incorrigible protagonists.