Two Great Magicians:
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is kind of the ultimate historical fantasy for me. It is set in 18th-century England and centers around two great magicians, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I love this book. I love the alternate history and everything Susanna Clarke did with the Napoleonic Wars, Duke Wellington, King George III's madness, and Lord Byron. The characters are incredible. Both the major and minor characters are either very likable or very interesting. I especially like Stephen Black and Childermass and the Gentleman with Thistle-Down Hair was very well done. The book is very long, but I was glad that is was so lengthy so I could keep enjoying it.
The Magical Realm:
A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first book in a trilogy set in Victorian England. At boarding school Gemma Doyle discovers she can enter The Realms, a world of magic. Libba Bray's novels are a combination of creepy horrors and deep friendships. Gemma, Pippa, Felicity, and Ann make an interesting group. They kind of come together by accident, but, over the course of the trilogy, they must rely on one another implicitly. The Realms is a mysterious place. It is both beautiful and terrifying (thus the title). I especially love the creepy parts of this tale. The insane asylum and the girls in white always creep me out. A Great and Terrible Beauty would be a good choice for a Halloween read.
Ceony Twill is disappointed when she is not given the opportunity to chose her own specialty and is instead compelled to become apprenticed to a paper magician. Set in early-1900s England, the best part about Charlie N. Holmberg's debut novel is the magical system. Magic can only be worked through man-made material by a magician bonded to that material alone. Ceony sees paper as the most mundane of all the magical mediums, but she is won over by the whimsical creations of her master, Emery Thane whom she must rescue when his beating heart is stolen by an Excisioner. The Paper Magician was an enjoyable read, and I am hopeful that the sequels expand on this intriguing world and its magic.
A Magical Nobility:
Kiersten White's newest book, Illusions of Fate, is a historical fantasy packed full of magic and ravens. Jessamin is a student in Albion (basically England). She doesn't fit in well since she's from Melei and of mixed race. When she meets Finn, a young, dashing lord, she gets swept up in the world of the nobility. And these nobles have power, wealth, rivalries, and magic. I wish that the fascinating world of Illusions of Fate was a bit more developed. I like how this fantasy tackles race, colonialism, and imperialism. However, while I think the cover is lovely, I really do wish that Jessamin had darker skin. It should be really obvious that the main character is not a white European as this is such a crucial part of the story. Illusions of Fate is out September 9th, 2014. Review copy from Edelweiss.
Suffrage and Hypnosis:
It's 1900 in Portland, Oregon, and Olivia Mead is excited about the changes that seem to be happening all around. Women are advocating for change; they just might win the right to vote. Olivia's father, however, feels very differently. He hires Henri Reverie to hypnotize the rebellion right out of his daughter. Cat Winter's Cure for Dreaming is an inventive historical fantasy. Olivia, once hypnotized, is open to the possibility of magic in the world. Henri is a fun character, and Olivia is a fighter. She was never going to be a docile girl. The inclusion of ads, photographs, and quotes from the period are a fun addition to the novel. The Cure for Dreaming is out October 14th, 2014. Review copy from NetGalley.