Kat, Incorrigible (aka A Most Improper Magick) by Stephanie Burgis – Advance Review

Book Jacket:

Twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson may be the despair of her social-climbing Step-Mama, but she was born to be a magical Guardian and protector of Society–if she can ever find true acceptance in the secret Order that expelled her own mother. She’s ready to turn the hidebound Order of the Guardians inside-out, whether the older members like it or not. And in a society where magic is the greatest scandal of all, Kat is determined to use all her powers to help her three older siblings–saintly Elissa, practicing-witch Angeline, and hopelessly foolish Charles–find their own true loves, even if she has to turn highwayman, battle wild magic, and confront real ghosts along the way!

You can read an excerpt here.


If you took Margaret Dashwood (from Sense and Sensibility) and Jacky Faber (from the Bloody Jack series), mixed them together with a slab of Regency adventure and threw in a dash of Disney style magic, you’d start to get close to the frothy, lively romp that is Kat, Incorrigible.

Kat’s charm is undeniable. She is an indomitable, curious, and forthright scamp, and you can’t help but enjoy her determination – but it’s also easy to understand why she so annoys her sisters! Kat gallivants through the pages, falling into one scrape after another while butting heads delightfully with her family along the way.

I absolutely loved the dynamics between Kat and her sisters in this book. Having two older sisters myself, I couldn’t help but chortle at how perfectly Burgis nailed the exasperated affection between sisters. It is hilarious to watch Kat’s gumption run up against her elder sisters’ stubborn determinations of what is right, especially as both her sisters are forces of nature.

A taste:

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.

“Katherine Ann Stephenson!” My oldest sister Elissa’s outraged voice pinned me like a dagger as she threw open her bedroom window. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?”

Curses. I froze, still holding my pack slung across my shoulder. I might be my family’s best chance of salvation, but there was no expecting either of my older sisters to understand that. If they’d trusted me in the first place, I wouldn’t have had to run away in the middle of the night, like a criminal.

The garden gate was only two feet ahead of me. If I hurried . . .

“I’m going to tell Papa!” Elissa hissed.

Behind her, I heard groggy, incoherent moans of outrage—my other sister, Angeline, waking up.

Elissa was the prissiest female ever to have been born. But Angeline was simply impossible. If they really did wake the whole household, and Papa came after me in the gig . . .

I’d planned to walk to the closest coaching inn, six miles away, and catch the dawn stagecoach to London. If Papa caught up with me first, the sad, disappointed looks I’d have to endure from him for weeks afterward would be unbearable. And the way Stepmama would gloat over my disgrace—the second of our mother’s children to be a disappointment to the family . . .

I gritted my teeth together as I turned and trudged back toward the vicarage.

Angeline’s voice floated lazily through the open window. “What were you shouting about?”

“I was not shouting!” Elissa snapped. “Ladies never shout.”

“You could have fooled me,” said Angeline. “I thought the house must have been burning down.”

All three sisters are absolutely convinced they have the right of it, which leads to hilarious thwarting on all sides. Elissa, the eldest, is determined to be a Gothic heroine and somehow sacrifice herself for her family, while Angeline is pure stubborn will, very quick to take revenge if crossed, and a witch to boot. Kat, of course, is determined to save both her sisters from their own follies, and Kat’s best of intentions lead to consternation all around. This story is just chock full of sisterly wrangling at its best.

And it’s not just the sisters – all the characters in this book have undeniable personality. The more peripheral characters do skirt with caricature, but by design – Burgis is poking fun at Regency archetypes, especially love interests and villains, and it makes for highly amusing character vignettes.

On the spectrum of middle grade fiction, this book firmly lands on the younger end. Kat is very much an authentic twelve year old voice, but overall this book just feels a little overtly geared toward younger youngsters – in Sesame Street parlance, it’s more Elmo than Grover. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been reading Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series (which has an eleven year old protagonist and crossover appeal, but wasn’t written to be YA), but I do think older readers will twig on the fact that Kat, Incorrigible is a very middle grade book (as I did). I liked the story, and was amused by it, but I still found myself restless at times and resisting the urge to skim. Still, I can hardly hold it against a middle grade book for being young – this is just an inherently light and bouncy kind of story.

So with magical shenanigans, a touch of Regency flare, and an entirely improper 12 year old girl, this book is one fun romp, beginning to end. I am very much looking forward to seeing what trouble Kat gets herself into next.

Byrt Grade: B+/A-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

I Was A Teenage Book Geek says:

Amidst all the magic and matchmaking, A Most Improper Magickgives us a proper page-turning adventure story. Kat fearlessly encounters shady aristocratic villains, sneaks around the gothic Grantham Abbey and even throws herself in the path of highwaymen – and all with a cheeky wit and resourcefulness that makes her exactly the kind of heroine a reader can’t help rooting for. It’s a story that shows a different side to the refined Regency world you read about in other books or see on TV: an unladylike side that’s more fun than I ever could have expected to find there.

Baffled Books says:

This was a cute fun read, perhaps more suited to middle grade readers than young adult…I would recommend to anyone looking for something light and magical with a smidge of regency flair, but not one I will probably be rereading.

Chicklish says:

The characters in this book were all distinctive and utterly lifelike, especially Kat and her sisters. You could tell from the very first page that they were set to have huge, entertaining personality clashes, and that’s just what they did. I can’t wait to read more about all three of the sisters in future books by this author, and I’m especially dying to find out what Angeline gets up to next.