Book Review: Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

 

‘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?’

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.

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, especially, will 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!

Recommended Reading Age: 9+

7/10

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