12-year old Kat Stephenson is about to try to save her family's fortune. Her brother's gambling debts have them on the brink of ruin, her father's reputation was damaged when he married her mother - a witch - and her stepmother's solution is to marry off Kat's eldest sister Elissa to Sir Neville Collingwood. What's a girl to do, other than turn to her mother's magic to try and get them out of this situation?
The best way to describe this Georgian romp is, appropriately, spellbinding! Kat is an absolutely fabulous heroine - vivacious, witty, and incredibly loyal to her family. The supporting cast is wonderful, most of them appearing to have stepped right out of a Jane Austen novel, with Kat's stepmother and the awful Sir Neville, who lost his first wife in rather suspicious circumstances, being two of the most entertaining. Kat's relationship with her sisters also stands out as especially good - somewhat mothered by them, it's a great portrayal of a young girl trying to show them that she can have her own ways of being helpful.
Burgis has also created an outstanding world here - arguably two outstanding worlds, because as well as Regency England, complete with Gothic abbeys, high society, and highwaymen, we get the strange place to which Kat is transported by her mother's mirror, where she finds out that her mother was both a witch and a Guardian, and the Order of the Guardians want Kat to join. Some of them, at least...
Absolutely massive recommendation as quite possibly the best for tweens and younger teens that I've read for ages, and a strong contender for my favourite overall this month despite me having read an incredible amount of absolutely brilliant books. Will be grabbing the sequel at the weekend - I couldn't get it before then as I finished this on Tuesday and knew I'd have nowhere near enough willpower to resist reading book 2 and get on with the day job. Book 3 is out in April, and will be pre-ordering that one!