Sequel Syndrome is a terrible thing. First you write a brilliant, hilarious first book and it's a hit. But then...... THEN, you have to do it again.
Well, Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer have written a witty and amusing reprise of _Sorcery and Cecilia_ (aka _The Enchanted Chocolate Pot_), but in my opinion it's not quite up to the caliber of the first book.
One reason for this is that the plot isn't as dramatic. Yes, it's an intriguing riddle -- what ARE the insidious Mr. Strangle and the young man he's supposedly tutoring up to? And yes, we're _told_ (but never shown) that all of Europe is in danger. But our least favorite people from the first book get tidily killed off, there's a lot more about the tedium of coach travel over bad roads than about magic, and nearly everybody they meet is either nice or rather ineffectual.
The heroines (and heroes) also have a lot less work to do. The danger is less dangerous, troubles happen only one at a time, no one is working at cross-purposes, and there don't seem to be any sub-plots (more's the pity). Even the puzzle isn't that hard to put together if you know anything about medieval European kings. Only two people get kidnapped, and only toward the end of the book, and nothing really happens to them -- again, we're _told_ they are to be sacrificed, but they never even get close, and rescue (of course) comes in time.
Actually, the ending is about the most dramatic scene in the book, and while the rantings and revelations are pretty good, it's soon over. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are also some loose ends left untied, so we might be in for another sequel.
I also had a few minor quibbles -- it's been a long time since I read the first one, and I have this vague feeling that both heroines have somehow forgotten some of the things about magic that they learned in the first book. And a sickle made of pure gold is certainly romantic (especially if you are trying to be an Ancient Druid) but I have my doubts about whether you could actually cut much of anything with it, let alone use it as a murder weapon.
Also, whoever designed the cover art (and I know it wasn't the authors) should be forced at parasol-point to read several long and highly educational histories of costume until they get a clue. The clothes the heroines are wearing look _nothing_ like Regency clothing, but rather more like someone's vague notion of what teenage girls ought to have looked like in the 1950s. Sheesh, there are enough Regency novels out there that even publishers (who actually DO choose the covers) ought to know what Regency clothes look like.
It's a fun read, pure fluff and no educational value, funny, acerbic, and a little sweet. I read it twice the first week it came and will undoubtedly want to read it again -- and it's inspired me to go back and re-read the first one. (The sequel wouldn't have been as much fun if I hadn't known what happens in the first book.)
But I've seen both authors do _so_ much better writing independently. Patricia Wrede's _Mairelon the Magician_ and _Magician's Ward_, which are both set in the same universe as this one, are much more complex and interesting. The final confrontation scene in _Mairelon_ winds up with about fifteen people either trying to hold one another at gunpoint, fainting, trying to make off with the treasure, or threatening to elope, and just when you think it's as bad as it can get, _another_ person shows up and complicates things further. I've read it a dozen times and it still makes me laugh out loud. The pacing is perfect.
Caroline Stevermer, also, can do much better -- she's a much slower and more meditative writer, but her imaginative inventions are dazzling, her people are fascinating, and her latest, _A Scholar of Magics_, is every bit as far-flung, eminently logical, and imaginatively mystical as her first book, _A College of Magics_.
I liked _The Grand Tour_ and it's always fun to see what happens to old friends next. But I don't think _Grand Tour_ is going to get as many re-readings as the other books I've mentioned. Let's hope two excellent authors can make the synergy work better if they do this again.