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“It is a truth universally acknowledged that the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter must be a witch.” Enter Lydia Bennet, the youngest of the Bennet sisters. Anyone who has read the source material will insist that Lydia is the fifth daughter and thus the maxim shouldn’t apply. But they are not factoring in the three eldest sisters who died shortly after birth. Nor are they aware that Kitty, the second-youngest sister, doesn’t count since she’s a cat Lydia hexed into girlhood without her family remembering. In setting down Lydia’s recollections, Taub breathes new life into classic characters in a novel that is carefully researched and surprisingly layered. Magic comes at a price here, and for every spell a witch casts she must offer up something in return. Lydia’s troubles start when, in order to spare her and Kitty’s lives, she foolishly makes a promise to Lord Wormenheart, a dragon demon. Years later, Wormenheart comes to collect what he is owed, which sends Lydia on a dangerous adventure to Brighton. There she seeks out the Jewel of Propriety with the help of fellow witches Mrs. Harriet Forster, a beautiful but existentially unsatisfied colonel’s wife, and Miss Maria Lambe, daughter of a freed Black woman and a South Seas plantation owner’s son. Lydia’s future husband, George Wickham, who in this telling is Wormenheart’s demon son, lends help and a good deal of mischief. Mostly detailing events from her past, Lydia also describes her current (though far less engaging) predicament, trying to help Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s hexed sister, Georgiana. While at times the story drags, Taub’s wit and creativity shines through, making even the Kitty/kitty character endearing where a lesser writer might have made it grating. As our heroine says: “though it is dauntingly long I daresay it is charmingly written.”


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