Renegade Magic, by Stephanie Burgis

I enjoyed, in a mildly diverted way, A Most Improper Magick (US title--Kat, Incorrigible), in which Stephanie Burgis introduced young Kat--a Regency child whose titular abilities wreck havoc when she tries to use them to assist her sisters' with their romantic entanglements. It was one of those books, though, that Everyone was gushing about when it came out in the US, and I didn't feel I had anything compelling to add to the conversation.

However, I just had the pleasure of reading its sequel, Renegade Magic (Atheneum, April, 2012, UK title A Tangle of Magicks), enjoyed it very much, and haven't seen that many blog reviews of it (did I miss them?).

Short summary: The mean streets of regency Bath (mostly mean because of the vicious gossips) are honored with the presences of Kat, her older sister Angeline, dissolute brother Charlie, Stepmother, and Father. The point of the visit, orchestrated by Stepmama, is to get Angeline married off before the scandal of her magical abilities wrecks her chances.

What really happens is that Kat is plunged into a plot to awaken the old wild magic of Britain that lies at the source of Bath's healing springs. Except that the Guardians no longer want her as a member--her headstrong temper has not endeared her to those at the top--and they refuse to take her suspicions seriously. Even the possession of Kat's new accomplice, Lucy, by an Roman goddess spewing wild magic right and left is somehow attributed to Kat's wild ways...but unless the magic can be controlled, dreadful things will happen!

Even more so than the first book, it's full of zesty details and snappy dialogue. There's real danger to be faced within a larger plot canvas than the primarily familial concerns of the first book, so the stakes are higher and the suspense greater. Because of this, and also because of the particular social situation in which she finds herself, Kat, whose Incorrigibleness was a bit much for me in book one, has every right to every bit of the headstrong temper and willfulness she displays! I was able to cheer for her wholeheartedly. There's also more nuance to the familial relationships--Kat seems to be growing in her ability to understand other points of view, which is all to the good (she even, at one point, speaks up on behalf of her stepmother, and though she was lying through her teeth, I was still proud of her).

And I liked it more than the first because the stage is set from the get go (as is so often the case in second books). Kat is not longer in the process of being chosen to be part of a secret cabal of guardian magic users, so we can just accept the fact that she is special, and move on.

In short, I was very pleasantly diverted, and I have decided that it's currently my 2012 pick for the book I would give as a present to a nine or ten fantasy-reading girl for whom I had already bought Giants Beware!* It stands alone nicely (so no worries about the first book having been read or not), and it is zesty without being overwhelming.

*I think a lot about giving books as presents (I think a lot about getting books as presents too, but that happens less often. sigh). However, the only ten year old girl I buy books for is my niece in Holland, who doesn't really like to read long books in English...so she gets things likes the Dragonbreath books and Zita the Spacegirl, and, of course, Giants Beware!


  1. I didn't know the sequel was out! I'll have to find it.

  2. I really enjoyed the first book in this series. But this second one I didn't care for how much of the book the father and son were protrayed as not smart and useless.

    1. Yes, but isn't that how they were shown in the first book too? (I can't quite remember). At any event, the father does get one bit of fatherly action in, and Charlie does stand up (in a weak way) for his sisters at one point, so I was encouraged that they might grow into more useful characters!

  3. I have both on my shelves, but have yet to read them. I like their UK titles better.

  4. Somehow I missed your review of this book! Which I also liked better than the first, for a lot of the same reasons, plus Bath. I even felt sorry for Stepmama at one point!

  5. The only reason I'm not down as a verified purchaser is because I had the privilege of reading it before it came out, and I have since bought myself the UK hardcopy and then multiple copies of this Kindle edition for other people, I loved it that much. I read a *lot* of books, have read this one once, over a year ago, yet I can still remember the opening scene (Kat and her brother sneaking out to spar), Kat's unorthodox entry into Bath, the wild magic, the suspense of shuffling through town while invisible, all of it.


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