This was an interesting--and unexpected--twist on Pride&Prejudice. Before the book even begins, the character based on Elizabeth dies, leaving her father and sisters at a loss. The Jane analog is thus coerced into marriage to pseudo Mr.Collins, and the Lydia analog's reputation is ruined when she runs off with the pseudo Wickham. Years later, Lydia--named Lucy Derrick here--is living a miserable existance as an unwanted poor relation. The only bright spot is her new friend Mary Crawford, a beautiful widow. But just before she can accept a despicable man's proposal of marriage, Mary shows her how to do magic. Lucy takes to magic like a duck to water, and soon discovers that her relatives' deaths and her own unhappy circumstances are the result of a far-stretching and mysterious magical conspiracy.
The effects of the industrial revolution are shown in harrowing detail--there's no flinching away from poverty and ecological damage in this book. Different fey factions seek to halt or accelerate the spread of industry across England, and it is this conflict that only Lucy can stop.
Lucy is a marvelous character. Lydia's flirtatious and giddy personality is still there, but years of hard life have damped down her natural unthinking reactions and made her warier of trusting new acquaintances. She takes Society's rules seriously, but knows how to work around them to some extent. And she has grown wonderfully clever: she's always trying to arrange contingency plans and prepare for any eventuality. The book really shows us, rather than tells, her personality.
Mary Crawford is another wonderful creation. After her unfortunate brush with the denizens of Mansfield Park, she married, started having adventures, and became hard as nails. Her old friend, and Lucy's erstwhile admirer, Mr. Morrison, is the weakest part of the book by far. After spending the first two-thirds of the book thinking he's just like Wickham, we discover that he's actually an incredible hero who was just trying to save Lucy by eloping with her (in order to get her out of the house when it was magically attacked). First of all, it was a stupid, hurtful strategy. Surely there was a way to get Lucy out of the house that didn't involve seducing her for a month beforehand! And second of all, even if he is a hero, his romance with Lucy seems to come out of nowhere. It needed more (any?) build-up before I'd believe he was in love with her, let alone she with him.
The fairies are creepy, the magic feels not-quite-understandable, and the plot builds to a satisfying crescendo. The only flaw was the romance, which didn't feel believable, but all else was very enjoyable indeed.