Thursday, October 12, 2017

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones

Summary from Goodreads:
The year is 1818, the city is London, and our heroine, 16-year-old Annis Whitworth, has just learned that her father is dead and all his money is missing. And so, of course, she decides to become a spy.

Annis always suspected that her father was a spy, so following in his footsteps to unmask his killer makes perfect sense. Alas, it does not make sense to England’s current spymasters—not even when Annis reveals that she has the rare magical ability to sew glamours: garments that can disguise the wearer completely.

Well, if the spies are too pigheaded to take on a young woman of quality, then Annis will take them on.

She’ll follow the clues her father left behind and discover what befell him.

She’ll prove she can sew an impenetrable disguise.

She’ll earn a living without stooping to become a—shudder—governess.

It can’t be any harder than navigating the London social season, can it?
This is one of those rare books that I purchased for the library having read no prior reviews for. The title, alone, is what appealed to me. And then when it came in, I finished processing it, and put a hold on it right away. I knew it would be something for me. Can the title get any better? Thank goodness the book was just as good as I thought it would be, and then some.
Imagine Jane Austin mixed with Maria V Snyder, mixed with Meg Cabot, and mixed with Project Runway. I love historical fiction that involves magic and hidden feminism. I’m not a huge spy story fan. But, there’s something about a story with lady spies that really appeals to me. Add lady spies with hidden magical sewing powers, and a murder mystery involving Napoleon, and well, this book was just fabulous.
There were a few moments when I had to re-read certain pieces of dialogue because things were often said that I didn’t pick up on. And this was annoying. Also annoying was one twist that I found painstakingly obvious since the first chapter. I wish the author made things with a certain surprise spy a little less obvious.
I loved Annis. I loved her dreams. I loved her relationship with her maid, and how highly she viewed her maid’s safety and needs. I loved that Annis couldn’t do everything. For instance, throwing knives seemed impossible for her. She was a little silly and na├»ve at times, but this was okay because she was always willing to learn from her mistakes and grow.
I loved the disguises, the balls, the subterfuge, and the wit behind everything. This book was smart. Ladies were smart. Every chapter starts with a famous quote, and a little explanation by Annis.
Some things felt a little bit far-fetched, like all the ladies coming together at a ball to heed the words of what happened to a maid behind closed doors. But, I do like that the author did make Annis register that when she was disguised as a maid, people did not respect her. Her safety was always in question. People would spill things on her without apology. And her voice did not matter as much. Little historic truths did come out. It wasn’t all pretty dresses and fun disguised adventures.
I read this super quickly, despite how easy it was to put down after each short chapter. I just had so much fun reading this that I was smiling the whole time. My jaw actually hurt at one point from all the smiling while reading that was going on. I loved the concept of the story. I loved the historical setting. I loved the magic and the network of spies. I loved the characters. There were a few little things that annoyed me, but all in all, this was a great read. I give it a 9/10.

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