This book hovered at a three star for me but the originality and audiobook narration tipped it into a 4 star read.
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is set in an alternate Victorian England where a co-hort of ladies can fly houses with a magical incantation. A sect of these ladies—the Wisteria Society– use this magic for piracy. This book’s entire aesthetic is the juxtaposition of Victorian-era etiquette and the brutality of piracy. For instance, there will be characters having afternoon tea conversation about literature or something while also evading assassins. It’s very twee, whimsical and quirky.
When an evil man threatens the Wisteria Society, 19-year-old Cecilia Bassingthwaite–the great niece of a legendary society member–sees her chance to step up and show her worth. She teams up with Ned Lightbourne, a mysterious man of many names and loyalties, to save the days. Their story is a mix of coming-of-age, romance, and adventure.
I am pretty conflicted about this book. I found the tweeness and quirks of this book a bit daunting at times. Holton is doing a lot. Each chapter begins with a quippy summary of what is going to happen, the book occasionally breaks the 4th wall and Queen Victoria shows up as a weird caricature in an extended bit. I also don’t really care for the inevitable feminism=women being in charge and men doing traditional women’s roles. I just really don’t think you can talk about women’s rights without being like…so ya’ll saw slavery and did nothing?
All that said, I admire this book for its original premise and style. It’s a refreshing take on the genre and at no point did I feel like I knew what was going to happen next. I saw on Twitter someone compare Holton’s writing to Terry Pratchett and that really made this book click for me. Her writing reminded me a lot of my experience with Good Omens, and I think fans of that will love this.
Elizabeth Knowlendon is amazing on the audiobook , her energetic performance works perfectly with Holton’s prose.