Book Review: Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

First of — I’d just like to point out how much I love this cover! The colours are scrummy and it stands out as hav­ing had a proper designer/illustrator work­ing on it com­pared to a lot of book cov­ers I see. It really cap­tures the fun, mag­i­cal, imp­ish feel to the book. I’d pick it up in a book­store in a heartbeat.

Kather­ine Ann Stephen­son has just dis­cov­ered that she’s inher­ited her mother’s mag­i­cal tal­ents, and despite Stepmama’s stern objec­tions, she’s deter­mined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sis­ter Elissa’s intended fiancé, the sin­is­ter Sir Neville, show­ing a dan­ger­ous inter­est in Kat’s mag­i­cal poten­tial; her other sis­ter, Ange­line, wreak­ing roman­tic havoc with her own witch­craft; and a high­way­man lurk­ing in the for­est, even Kat’s reck­less hero­ism will be tested to the upmost. If she can learn to con­trol her new pow­ers, will Kat be able to res­cue her fam­ily and win her sis­ters their true love?

Despite being a book aimed at a younger audi­ence than I would nor­mally read, I really enjoyed Kat, Incor­ri­gi­ble. I can def­i­nitely see hints of Jane Austen, or rather, Pride and Prej­u­dice, through­out — and being a Jane Austen fan, I did love Bur­gis’ unique spin on some beloved characters.

Elissa, Kat’s eldest sis­ter, and her husband-to-be, are, with­out a doubt, based on Jane and Mr Bin­g­ley — both are utterly good-natured, sweet-tempered and well-mannered (and in the case of Mr Colling­wood — slightly fool­ish — his ridicu­lous plan to win over Elissa made me facepalm and laugh at the same time). Ange­line, the mid­dle sis­ter, has cer­tainly got a bit of Eliz­a­beth Bennet’s inde­pen­dence, intel­li­gence and fire about her, and I just loved Fred­er­ick. The teas­ing nature and fiery looks between these two was per­fect with­out being out-of-place for a younger reader’s book. Kat is entirely her­self. We first meet her sneak­ing out in the mid­dle of the night, hair cropped short, dressed as a boy. Nat­u­rally. I did this all the time when I was 12. Throw in a bossy, slightly ter­ri­fy­ing (but well-meaning), step­mother, intent on mar­ry­ing her step­daugh­ters off to the most eli­gi­ble bach­e­lors around (remind you of any­one?), an absen­tee father and hope­less gam­bler of a brother and you have one endear­ingly famil­iar, if eccen­tric, family.

Younger read­ers will be drawn to Kat, who is very much a modern-day hero­ine, albeit in a regency gown (or… not as the case may be!) She’s a stub­born lit­tle thing and her almost world-weary indig­na­tion at hav­ing to sort out her fam­ily time and again (as she sees it), com­bined with her naivety at what was actu­ally going on most of the time, was amus­ing. Older read­ers will find her loy­alty, fierce deter­mi­na­tion and unfor­tu­nate habit of get­ting into trou­ble at equal times exas­per­at­ing and bewitch­ing. I had to laugh at her dis­gust over not being ambushed by a high­way­man on way to a party!

The plot is utterly ran­dom and pro­gres­sively more absurd as it goes on, you have a ditzy witch of a mother, three bick­er­ing sis­ters, one deter­mined step­mother, back­fir­ing love spells, a por­tal mir­ror, a secret Order, creepy suit­ors, dis­trust­ful Guardians, a mag­i­cal teapot, kid­nap­ping, adven­tures and the odd high­way­man or two. Kat, Incor­ri­gi­ble is com­pletely ridicu­lous, a bizarre mix­ture of regency and magic and utterly charm­ing. I would have liked to have known more about the Order, who the Guardians are and what they do. What makes them dif­fer­ent from witches and why do they dis­like com­mon magic? I wanted to see Kat learn more about her own pow­ers and get to use them, and get to know some of the char­ac­ters bet­ter; but the tone and pac­ing feels about right for its intended audience.

Kat, Incor­ri­gi­ble is an enjoy­able, witty story that made me smile — per­fect for those look­ing for an enter­tain­ing, and light read. I think younger read­ers will espe­cially love it. Kat is an easy hero­ine to love and Bur­gis really cap­tured the rela­tion­ship between the sis­ters. I was drawn more to Ange­line than Kat, and thor­oughly enjoyed watch­ing her dis­dain over Fred­er­ick as a bum­bling fool in the grip of a pow­er­ful love spell turn to jeal­ously, once he turns back to his charm­ing rake-self and pro­ceeds to flirt with every­one else just to rile her up. As an older reader I’ll admit I wasn’t quite sat­is­fied — I craved more infor­ma­tion and wished Kat would actu­ally lis­ten and take the time to find out what the Order was about, rather than just assum­ing she knew best — but I guess that’s what makes her so incor­ri­gi­ble! And despite my lin­ger­ing ques­tions, it never spoilt my enjoy­ment of what was a fun, engag­ing story. Luck­ily, this is only the first in a series, as my curios­ity is piqued and I can’t wait to get back to this charm­ing (and insane) group of char­ac­ters and see more magic and may­hem from the Stephen­son family!

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