To best understand "Sorcery and Cecelia" one has to first flick to the back of the book in order to read the authors' afterword in which they explain the format and history of their story. After hearing of a game called "The Letter Game", Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer decided to have a go - each took on the persona of two young women in a more magically favoured 1800's, and wrote to each other concerning their activities. Patrica Wrede plays the role of Cecelia Rushton, living in the country and somewhat envious of her cousin Kate Talgarth (Caroline Stevermer) who is being presented to Society in London. And so the correspondance began, each woman drawing on the magical angle of their created world as well as a 'Jane Austen' flavour, so tell each other of the gradually more dangerous escapades that they both get up to.
Kate in London is well into the process of socialising and mingling, despite being overshadowed by her far more beautiful sister Georgy. But whilst watching a neighbourhood wizard Sir Hilary being installed at the Royal College of Wizards, she comes across a little door in the building that leds to a cloistered garden, where a woman named Miranda Griscombe tries to kill her via chocolate poured from a bright blue chocolate pot! It becomes increasingly difficult when her cousin (Cecy's brother) Oliver disappears while at a night time function, and everywhere she goes she seems to run into the odious 'Mysterious Marquis', a one Thomas Schofield, whom seems to be the target of Miranda's malice.
Cecelia meanwhile has come into contract with Dorothea Griscombe (any relation to Miranda?) who unintentionally seems to attract men to her like flies to honey, in particular James Tarleton, who prowls around behind bushes and under trees with very little skill at such activities. Finding herself quite accomplished at the magical arts, despite her Aunt Elizabeth's hearty disapproval, Cecelia begins to take lessons, 'borrowing' several books from Sir Hilary's library which may lend clues to Kate's situation in London...
Such does the story go, expanding with each letter, with each girl helping the other along, though in the entire course of the tale neither of them come face to face. It is a highly original way of telling a story, and for the most part works very well in presenting a tale. If there is one trouble, it is that we are never in any concern over the girls' safety in their escapades, as we know that they remain intact in order to write the letters chronicling their dangers. Furthermore its difficult to keep track of the myraid of characters that keep pouring into the storyline and their relationships with one another - three-quarters of the way through the book I gave up and began again from the start!
But "Socery and Cecelia" (why Kate is excluded from the title is a mystery since I found her story and attitude far more enjoyable than Cecelia's) is a funny, witty, exciting read, filled with magic, interfering aunts, enchanted chocolate pots, romance, adventure and a certain tone that reminds us continually that it is real letters that we are reading - we never really find out what the story was behind that goat that the girls are continually alluding to!