The Cybils Speculative Fiction Bookmark:
As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of book I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes.
Synopsis: Annis Whitworth's world quietly crumples when it's discovered that not only has her father died under rather unlikely circumstances (but why was he traveling on a night with no moon?) that all of his money has vanished. The father she barely knew is, in a way, only a minor loss, but Annis had been promising herself for too long that she was going to get to know him -- and now it's too late. It feels like it's too late for everything, including regret. The servants are sent packing, the lease on the house is terminated, and Annis and her Aunt Cassia are away to make their way as governesses or companions. Only, Annis isn't going to go quietly. As she is taking in a rather ghastly mourning gown, she makes the discovery that she has the power within her hands - and within her needle - to save them. All she has to do is ply her trade -- but despite her friendships with woman who manage shops, Cassia insists that no girl in trade will ever be able to hold her head up. Determined, Annis whips up a disguise and sets herself up as a dressmaker.
For anyone else, it would be a tame endeavor to measure, cut, and sew, tamely minding a shop created solely to outfit Society women, but not for Annis. She saves a friend by chasing off a would-be rapist, delves into the secrets of the Quality, finds clues and trails after strangers. She decides to follow in her father's footsteps and set herself up as a spy. After all, if he could do it, why not?
Observations: Fans of Patricia C. Wrede's SORCERY AND CECELIA, Mary Robinette Kowal's SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY or Gail Carringer's ETIQUETTE series will find a kindred spirit in Annis Whitworth. Grieving, impetuous, and ridiculous, Annis is everything we love about Regency heroines. She is well-dressed and well-spoken, hyperfocused on gossip and Society, completely oblivious to ways to avoid trouble, and slightly unable to avoid saying just the wrong thing. This novel gently mocks the social conventions and the mores of the Regency, while celebrating girlhood friendships, bluestockings, and the flinty spirit of womanhood which, when backed into a corner, is unpredictable and can do ANYTHING.
Conclusion: An unusual magical power, spies, and derring-do bring together a fast-paced and satisfying Regency romp celebrating the power of demure womanhood, and leaves rooms for readers to want seconds.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the public library. You can find MURDER, MAGIC, AND WHAT WE WORE by Kelly Jones at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!