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The Grand Tour
Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Harcourt, 274 pages

The Grand Tour
Patricia C. Wrede
Patricia Wrede is the author of more than twelve books for young readers, including the Lyra and The Enchanted Forest series.

Patricia Wrede's Worldbuilder Questions
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Sorcery and Cecelia
SF Site Review: Magician's Ward
Patricia Wrede Tribute Site
Stevermer/Wrede Tribute Site

Caroline Stevermer
Caroline Stevermer grew up in Minnesota and graduated from Bryn Mawr College.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: When The King Comes Home

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Back in 1988, Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer published a paperback original novel that originated in a "letter game" the two played. Each took a character and wrote letters to the other as if written by their character. The result was a novel in letters, Sorcery and Cecelia. Over the years that novel became something like a cult classic. Those (like me) who were fortunate enough to have bought it on first release recommended it to other readers, but for some time it was hard to obtain. But the prospect of a sequel finally persuaded a publisher to reprint it, and indeed Harcourt's Magic Carpet imprint has released both Sorcery and Cecelia and The Grand Tour simultaneously.

The Grand Tour becomes one of three notable fantasies from 2004 set in the 19th or early 20th Century in an alternate historical England in which magic works. (The others being Stevermer's fine solo novel A Scholar of Magics and Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.) Of these it is undoubtedly the lightest in tone, but that is no complaint, simply a reflection of its intentions. In Sorcery and Cecelia two cousins in Regency England, Kate and Cecy, exchanged letters which told of their romances, and of certain magical difficulties, to do with Cecelia's apparent latent sorcerous abilities, with Kate's intended's own such abilities, and with a nasty villain wizard who wishes to grab more power for himself. In the new book, Kate has married Thomas, Lord Schofield, and become Lady Schofield, and Cecy has married James Tarleton. The four are setting off to the continent for a joint honeymoon tour. Instead of letters, the book is told in alternating sections from Kate's "commonplace book" (in this case mostly a diary) and from a deposition Cecy gives after the events of the novel.

Almost immediately trouble strikes in various forms. A mysterious lady gives them an alabaster flask of unknown significance. Kate keeps losing gloves (but then, she is clumsy). The ceiling falls on their dinner with Beau Brummell. A thief invades their rooms. Then, on the way to Paris, they are robbed by highwaymen.

In Paris they meet with the Duke of Wellington and it becomes clear that a variety of ancient objects connected with royalty are being stolen. Their mission, then, is to track down whoever is responsible for these thefts, and to try to figure out what they are up to. This is 1817, not long after Napoleon's final defeat, so it is not a surprise that Bonapartists figure in the plot. At any rate, the foursome (and servants) wend their way to Italy via a difficult passage through Switzerland, and it is in Florence, Venice and Rome that things come to a head.

This is an enjoyable book with a set of very pleasant characters. Still, it is not quite the delight that was Sorcery and Cecelia. One problem is simply that the main characters have already met and married their husbands -- there is no romance plot to help maintain the reader's interest. Another problem is that the revelations of the nature of sorcery are less "new" in this book than the original. Put simply -- this book is a sequel, and many of its problems are can be laid at the door of sequelitis. All that said, while I would certainly read Sorcery and Cecelia first, The Grand Tour is a fine novel, well worth your reading time.

Copyright © 2005 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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