Kat, Incorrigible: Magical Austen for the middle grade reader

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie BurgisKat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from impending ruin. I made it almost to the end of my front garden.

Thus begin the adventures of Katherine Ann Stephenson, also known as Kat. Kat is twelve and has a plethora of problems. Her oldest sibling, Charles, has gambled away all the family’s money and been sent home from Oxford. Her oldest sister Elissa is in love with the idea of being the tragic gothic heroine who sacrifices everything to marry and save her family from destruction. Angeline, who used to be Kat’s protector and confidante, now locks herself away in a room with Elissa to gossip about boys and goings-on in Society. That leaves Kat, who has to put up with her absent-minded father and controlling step-mother who is determined to marry Elissa off to the wealthy Sir Neville, regardless of the dark rumors about the death of his previous wife. So, Kat decides it is up to her to save her sister and her family from fates worse than death. And then means she needs to find her deceased mother’s spell books. And fast.

Kat’s mother died when she was a baby, so she never knew her. But she knows that her mother was a witch, to the scandal of many. But Kat needs something big to save her family. When she does attempt to do magic, she sets off a course of events that she couldn’t have foreseen. Plunged into an ongoing battle between different factions of magic-wielders, Kat has to figure out how to save herself from being a pawn in a war that she doesn’t understand.

Kat, Incorrigible has a definite Jane Austen flavor to it, but is also a fun magical adventure novel. There are star-crossed lovers, but there are also magical battles, cloaked highwaymen, and pistols being brandished with abandon. Kat’s a fun heroine, with an impulsive drive towards activity, but she’s also thoughtful and loving. She’s motivated by concern for her sisters. I particularly enjoyed the sibling dynamics between the three girls; while they pick on each other, they also present a united front when it is necessary.

This was a charming read. It’s written for a middle-school audience, but I think older readers who enjoy their Jane Austen spiked with magic would enjoy this too. (Just imagine what adventures Lydia could have had if she was a witch!) I would particularly recommend this series to readers who enjoyed the Sorcery and Cecilia books by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer or The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. I will definitely be looking for future books by Stephanie Burgis, especially other books in THE UNLADYLIKE ADVENTURES OF KAT STEPHENSON series.


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RUTH ARNELL is a retired professor of political science in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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5 comments

  1. Looks adorable. I’m going to get this for my 10 year old.

  2. You should try the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. First one is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. The narrator is great. 12 year old girl who loves chemistry and has a full lab at her disposal.

    I’ve got Kat, Incorrigible on the TBR stack.

  3. I like Patrica Wrede, but not the Parasol ones. But it sounds so good…I must wishlist it!

  4. This sounds adorable.

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