Review copy was received from Author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Mages and Mysteries by Victoria Kincaid
on November 27, 2021
In Regency England, women are expected to confine their magical acts to mending dresses or enhancing their beauty, but Elizabeth Bennet insists on crafting her own spells to fight goblins and protect the people of Meryton. She even caused a scandal by applying for admission to the magical Academy. When Hertfordshire is beset with a series of unexplained goblin attacks, Elizabeth is quite ready to protect her family and friends. If only she didn’t have to deal with the attitude of the arrogant mage, Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Mr. Darcy doesn’t need to be associated with a scandalous woman like Elizabeth Bennet—no matter how attractive she is. But as the goblin attacks accelerate and grow more dangerous, Darcy realizes that he could use her help in identifying the cause—and is forced to recognize her magical ability. Unfortunately, continued proximity to Elizabeth only heightens his attraction to her—which is particularly inconvenient in light of his engagement to Caroline Bingley.
If the Regency world included magic and magical creatures, imagine the enchantment of a Pride & Prejudice variation with such a background. Author Victoria Kincaid is stellar at transposing Austen’s tale into many creative and clever venues and her first dip into gaslight fantasy is no exception.
Paladin mage and warriors, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley arrive in a Hertfordshire neighborhood in time for the local assembly. Mr. Bingley is assessing the nearby Netherfield Park estate and Darcy joins Bingley and his family to evaluate it. The assembly has little country charm to Darcy and he makes himself odious to Miss Elizabeth Bennet when he discovers she is the infamous lone female who dared to approach the mage academy to enroll. Mage magic is for men and her rejection was a foregone conclusion.
Then the monsters arrive in the form of a six-foot goblin and he discovers Miss Elizabeth might become a valuable ally if he can get past the assumption that women can’t do or control powerful spellcasting. The mysterious concentration of goblin activity where there had been none and the deaths of locals make them form a reluctant partnership when the Council’s investigator does a cursory investigation and finds nothing amiss.
Elizabeth thought Darcy arrogant and detestable, but then his opinion of her and manners changed. She appreciates his change of heart, humble apology, and his support even while she knows they can be nothing more than friends. Their magical detection work leads them into secrets suppressed in the past and the discovery of a danger right in their midst with a deception that will affect the whole magic world and the upcoming Arch-Mage election. Someone will stop at nothing to get what they want and only Elizabeth and Darcy stand in their way.
A well-drawn magical world and I love that goblins are the featured mythical creatures. I enjoyed the take on magic that shows it is intricate, individual, and comes with effort, learning, and cost. There is a broader picture of how magic mixes with the Regency social structure and how it affects individuals within that society. A central message is that women are not inferior magic users and deserve the chance to learn how to work it and become vital, respected magic workers. This is not a close ‘what if’ style variation story, but doesn’t go completely off road from the original P&P, either. Jane Austen’s settings, characters, and key events are there- with magic.
I enjoyed the development of the characters and the twists in some of the relationships. Some original characters are absent while others who were more prominent have lesser roles which leaves the author able to really develop innovative new plot and character choices as well as more deeply develop those that are there.
The engaged couple was a startling surprise that I’ll leave for readers to encounter on their own. I also enjoyed seeing Elizabeth and Darcy go from hostile acquaintances to respected friends and partners to more. Because of magic involved, there is an equality that defies the class divides. Another fun surprise is what magic does with someone like Mr. Collins. Prepare to get some laughs from that one.
The tense mystery plot built to a stunning magical fight scene that was riveting. There are a few magical fights in the book, but they were all practices for the big one.
All in all, this one was abso-fab and I recommend it to Austen lovers, but also those who could care less about Austen, but love them some exciting Gaslight Fantasy romance.
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