The Grand Tour

Review written by Jocelyn Koehler

The Grand Tour is a real-world-with-magic novel set in the Regency period during the Napoleonic Wars. There are two main protagonists, Cecily and Kate, who are fashionable young English ladies each about 18 years old who have just been married. Cecily is married to James, and Kate is married to Thomas, who is a very skilled magician. Cecily also has some magical power. This book is a sequel to the novel Sorcery and Cecilia, and therefore references some characters and events in the novel. I did not read the first novel, and did not feel overly confused by jumping in at this point.

This is a world where magic is known and used by those who have the power, though not everybody is capable of doing so. For example, it is established that the British were able to win against Napoleon in part due to having better magicians. In nearly all other respects it is a standard historical novel that leans heavily on the “Jane Austen” style and setting. The novel opens with the four characters about to embark on their combined honeymoon: the grand tour of Europe. However, it quickly becomes a clandestine quest to stop agents of Napoleon from completing a magical ritual that will tip the balance of power in Europe.

The book is separated in two sections based on the location characters are in, starting in Calais and moving through Europe as they follow the trail of the magical items that are important to the ritual. So we also get a sort of road trip novel where the characters visit different cities and have different experiences, such as the opera or a fancy ball or visiting archaeological sites, all of which I found interesting and fun to read about.

The writing style is definitely for older readers, since it assumes that the reader is basically familiar with a lot of major points in history, and because it has more complex language in the vein of older literature that tends to be more wordy and circuitous. Several passages are very funny, relying on comedy of manners and what I’ll call “travel humor”, where the joke is usually at the expense of the protagonists navigating new settings that are not always ideal. There is also a ticking clock aspect to the story, as the characters are sort of chasing around Europe trying to defeat the bad guys before they can cast the spell.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


Throughout the book, I got the sense that the characters were older than they actually were, largely because people were expected to be adults from younger age at that time. So a married 18-year-old was expected to be as fully adult as someone who is 30 or 40. Also, the male protagonists Thomas and James are a few years older than Cecily and Kate. Both men have served in the army, so they come off as much more mature then the average male protagonist in a middle grade or YA novel.


There are a few issues dealing with class. Specifically, Kate is a titled lady (marchioness) who is married to a marquis. Cecily has no title and she is simply known as a lady of quality rather than a noblewoman. There are some differences in how other characters perceive the protagonists because of this. In addition, there are some comments about servants and lower class people being less educated and/or well-mannered, which reflects the world in this period. None of them seemed pejorative or indicative of individual prejudice.

Sex and Love

Because the protagonists Kate and Cecily are newlyweds, there is the occasional reference to sex, but only in the most oblique way, and only in the context of their respective marriages. Their husbands are portrayed as very kind and respectful, and sex is suggested to be a positive experience.

Gender Roles

As a Regency-set novel, the gender roles are what you’d expect for the early 1800s. Respectable women must be escorted around, and gentlemen are always assumed to be in charge. For instance, James and Thomas handle nearly all of the travel arrangements, payments, etc. Since the book is told from the dual POV of Kate and Cecily in alternating sections, the reader gets much more of the female perspective on life.

There are a couple of scenes where a woman implicitly or definitely uses her feminine side to get something she wants, usually by flirting or simply being feminine, such as when Kate dresses up in a deliberately uber-feminine way to win over a few people she wants to impress with her status. Her actions are not sexualized but they definitely rely on gender politics of the period, where pretty women get listened to. In contrast, there is a minor antagonist who uses flirtation to trick some guards into neglecting their posts—but again, it’s a very oblique reference to “off-screen” activities.


There is some violence in the book since it deals with spies and war. A few minor characters are murdered off the page, and there is a highway robbery scene. The main antagonist is responsible for some kidnapping and what is essentially mind control over a minor character toward the end of the novel, although it all ends up okay. One of the antagonists who is a magician uses their magic to inflict some pain on people, which the reader definitely hears about. But in general, there’s no gore and no intense violence. I would compare it to a “genteel” British murder mystery in terms of the level of violence.

Order and Authority

Good does triumph over evil. Authority figures are generally portrayed as competent, with some exceptions (Italy, apparently, is corrupt and bumbling in any reality). There is a secret organization of magicians on the side of good who show up to help the protagonists at a couple of points, but in general the younger protagonists do nearly all the work on their own. At the end a few of the evil figures have died, but the main antagonists are captured to be dealt with by the authorities. Order is restored.


Overall, it’s a very fun read that combines history and adventure. It’s on the long side at almost 500 pages, but I read it within a few days and felt the pacing was good. I would definitely say that this is a book for older tweens and those with an interest in history, although the magical element should help attract some reluctant readers who would not otherwise be interested in a Jane Austen style adventure.


The Grand Tour: or the Purloined Coronation Regalia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Published in 2004 by Harcourt Children’s Books
Book 2 in a series, preceded by Sorcery and Cecilia and followed by The Mislaid Magician

Speak Your Mind