Thank you so much for having me on My Jane Austen Book Club! I’m so excited to share with you my newest Pride and Prejudice variation, A Season of Magic! As you might be able to guess by the title, it is a fantasy story set in a magical version of Regency England.
My two favorite genres to read are Jane Austen variations (of course) and romantic fantasy. So it isn’t really a surprise that some of my favorite books combine the two of them!
I’ve been so excited to see the trend towards fantasy Jane Austen variations, from Kara Pleasant’s Disenchanted to Abigail Reynolds’ Mr. Darcy’s Enchantmentand Maria Grace’s Jane Austen’s Dragons series, and I’ve been itching to write my own for a while now.
Most of my favorite fantasy books take place in times and places with a feel of history before the 20th century. Carriages and horses, long dresses, breeches, letter writing, and arranged marriages are common in fantasy books, which often take place in an imaginary world that resembles the real world of the medieval, Renaissance, or early modern era. But in some ways, the Regency and Victorian times are uniquely ideal settings for fantasy.
In real history, those periods were when technology was first starting to make major shifts in the population. Factories were beginning to replace human labor in a way that had not been seen before. After thousands of years of animal-drawn conveyances, the steam engine was being developed, leading to railroads and steamships. Humans were soaring into the air in hot air balloons. Imagine what it must have been like to spend your whole life working on a tenant farm, never moving faster than a horse could walk, and then one day seeing a train speed by! It must have seemed like magic.
I think it is this sudden increase in technology that makes magic seem almost fitting for the era. If a train could push itself with steam, why not with magical air? If a loom could run itself with power from water, why not by a mage with a fabric talent?
Not only is fantasy a perfect fit for Regency fiction, it can also provide a fun new way to explore Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship. In A Season of Magic, both are attending the Season, a magical university where students learn to master their elemental magic and, often, find their spouse.
Elizabeth has more to contend with than just learning how to use her magic and finding a rich, magically-talented husband, though. Her parents were considered criminals and her family is in disgrace. Her roommate, Miss Lucy Steele, and Miss Caroline Bingley take delight in making her feel unwelcome. Their talents at illusion and manipulating fabrics are wreaking havoc on Elizabeth’s meager wardrobe in this excerpt from A Season of Magic.
When she walked into the classroom, there was an audible gasp. She turned to see who had caused such a reaction, but she realised with dismay that everybody was staring at her.
“Miss Bennet!” Mrs. Suckling strode towards her. “How dare you wear such a thing to my class!”
Elizabeth looked down in confusion. It was nothing but her blue morning gown . . . but, to her shock, her gown had something emblazoned across the bodice.
Upside down, it took her a moment to realise what it was. She turned bright red at the realisation that her gown had a large image of the Carlisle family crest on it.
“I did not . . . I would not . . .” she stammered, but she had no explanation. Why would Anna, or Betsy, or any of the servants have done such a thing? How could they even have done it?
“Get out of my classroom this instant, and do not return until you have changed.” Mrs. Suckling waved her pointer stick at her as if brandishing a weapon. “The House of Carlisle is no more, and good riddance to it too. If this is some sort of prank, it is a vile one.” Her gaze dropped to the bottom of Elizabeth’s gown. “And get your maid to clean your hems, and stay out of the mud. It is unsightly to present yourself in my class looking like that.”
Elizabeth backed slowly away. She could not handle even Mr. Wickham’s sympathetic look at the moment. Eye prickling, she turned and practically ran down the passage.
She slammed into a hard chest and almost bounced off.
“Miss Bennet!” A man reached out to grab her shoulders, steadying her, and she realised it was Mr. Darcy. If she could have chosen the person she least preferred to see while wearing the crest of the House of Carlisle on her bodice, it was him.
“What are you wearing?” he asked with a grim scowl.
“I do not know!” she cried, fighting to keep tears from falling. “I mean, I know it is my family’s crest, but I do not know why it is on my gown! Let me go, please. I need to change.”
“Miss Bennet . . .” He took a step backwards, his arms raised, his eyes troubled.
“Spare me the lecture, please,” she said, shifting as close to the wall to pass him as possible so that they did not touch. “I had nothing to do with it. Do you not think I am already hated enough?”
About the Book
When the girls are forced to reveal their elemental magic, it does not matter to the Mage Council that they did so only to save lives. Their parents were traitors, and the entire magical community is simply waiting for them to descend into evil themselves.
The Council reluctantly admits Elizabeth to the magical university (and unofficial marriage market) called The Season, where she will learn how to control her powers. If she can keep her head down and avoid drawing any untoward notice, she might be able to graduate and finally be accepted as a fire mage.
But fading into the background will be difficult. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, nephew to Lord Matlock of the Mage Council and a student himself, is assigned to observe her and report any misstep. One mistake could send her back to her foster parents, the Bennets—or worse, to prison. Yet when that mistake inevitably comes, he stands up on her behalf. Could he be an ally instead of an enemy?
When pranks between classmates become something more dangerous—and potentially deadly—Elizabeth will be forced to depend upon her friends—including Mr. Darcy. There’s something terrible lurking beneath the surface of the Season, and it will take everything Elizabeth has to survive it.
Sarah Courtney loves to read fantasy, fairy tales, and Pride and Prejudice variations, so what could be more fun than combining them? She currently lives in Europe where she homeschools her six children and still manages to write books, which has to be proof that magic exists!