The Joys of this Georgian Subgenre
Jane Austen is magic. In her life she wrote six perfect books that are classics two hundred years after her death. The problem is there are only six. Yes, there have been continuations, imitations, pastiches, Bollywood adaptations, what have you, but none of them are as satisfying as those six. So what is a Janeite to do? I have an answer! It's a subgenre called Regency Magic. Long before I ever found Jane Austen I was a fantasy fanatic, so when I read a review of a new book coming out back in 2004 called Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell billed as 'Harry Potter for Adults' I was intrigued. What I discovered upon reading Susanna Clarke's book was an alternate history of England set during the Regency, the time of Jane Austen, replete with magic. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell isn't just 'Harry Potter for Adults' it's one of the most magical and elegantly written books I have ever read.
But if I had a problem with Jane Austen writing only six books imagine my dismay at finding out Susanna Clarke had at the time written only one! I spent so much time searching for read-alikes that I stumbled not only on this wonderful subgenre, but on some of my favorite authors and books of all time. I wondered why had I never thought of it before? The only way to find books as magical as those written by Austen was to make them more magical with the addition of actual magic. Thankfully I wasn't the first one to think of this and over the years I found Mary Robinette Kowal, Galen Beckett, and Zen Cho to name a few. While I am constantly on the hunt for more authors and more books that could be considered Regency Magic, I kind of view it as my duty to pass on what I've discovered to others. To open this door into a magical world where Napoleon existed alongside magic. Therefore I have made a starters guide to Regency Magic for you, my gentle reader. Enjoy!
1. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
This is where it all began for me. Two men, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, bring magic back to England and in the process use it to defeat Napoleon. While not plot heavy, the use of language and the humor of the copious footnotes referencing magical texts make this such a rich world that you forgive any failings in plot.
Recommended for everyone.
2. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell BBC Adaptation
If you're uncertain of trying this genre by picking up a book that runs over a thousand pages, how about dipping your toe in by watching this marvelous and eerily pitch perfect adaptation of Susanna Clarke's book that the BBC produced? It's faithful to the spirit of the book if not the text, which all great adaptations should be.
Recommended for those who are leery.
3. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Shades of Milk and Honey is the first volume in Mary Robinette Kowal's amazingly reimaged Regency England series titled the Glamourist Histories. This is far closer to Austen than it is to fantasy, but her worldbuilding is second to none. Also make sure to keep your eyes peeled for a different Doctor Who cameo in each of the five volumes!
Recommended for those who consider themselves true Jane Austen fans.
4. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett
The Magicians and Mrs. Quent is the first in Galen Beckett's trilogy of the same name. Now this series, while maintaining Regency aspects, is far more fantastical with a bit of a Lovecraftian vibe and otherworldly presences.
Recommended for those who like their books a bit more fantastical and astrological.
5. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown is the first volume in a new series that not only looks to be fantastic but is more culturally aware and racially balanced. No whitewashing here, which, in 19th century literature and it's ilk is a problem.
Recommended for those who like their books to reflect real world diversity.
6. Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven by Beth Deitchman
Now what I said earlier about disliking Jane Austen continuations isn't a hard and fast rule. To that purpose I give you Beth Deitchman's Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven which is a continuation of Pride and Prejudice but with magic. It also makes Mary Bennet interesting for the first time! Make sure to check out the sequel, Margaret Dashwood and the Enchanted Atlas.
Recommended for those who just want Jane Austen with magic.
7. Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
This is an adorable series for the younger reader, or those who are young at heart. A great way to get kids interested in Jane Austen or to have them see that past times weren't all doom and gloom, as long as it's sprinkled with a little pixie dust. There are three volumes, but a handful of e-shorts as well.
Recommended for the young and young at heart.
Want to make your own list?