A Matter of Magic is actually an omnibus of two of Wrede's books, Mairelon the Magician and The Magician's Ward, as well as a reprint of the book Magic & Malice which was published in 1998.
In Mairelon the Magician Kim has been hired to break into the wagon of the traveling magician, Mairelon, in order to look for a particular blue bowl. But when Kim gets caught by the magician her life is forever changed. Offering to teach her how to become a magician, Mairelon takes Kim away from her life as a street urchin as well as from the dangerous rogues who are after her. But the danger follows Mairelon and Kim even after they leave town because Mairelon has something that several other people want quite badly, and will kill to get.
The second book in the omnibus follows the story of Mairelon and Kim after their adventures in Mairelon the Magician, as Kim learns to become a young lady of society. I'm going to refrain from telling you anything more about it because that would reveal too much of the plot of the first book.
I've been a fan of Wrede's books ever since I discovered her Enchanted Forest Series when I was fourteen. I also recently read her book, Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot which delighted me just as much as her other books. So when I heard about the publication of A Matter of Magic I immediately added it to my wishlist and waited impatiently until I finally got a hold of it. Unfortunately though, A Matter of Magic ended up being rather disappointing and not at all the kind of book I had come to expect from Wrede.
Part of what makes Wrede's books so charming and delightful are the wit and humor of her female protagonists. I loved Cecelia and Kate from Sorcery & Cecilia and Princess Cimorene from the Enchanted Forest remains one of my favorite book characters. In comparison, Kim was uninteresting and somewhat bland, lacking the verve and the mischievous likability of Wrede's other female protagonists.
On the other hand, I did enjoy the character of Mairelon who reminded me of Howl from Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle.
The story was OK, but didn't really rise above any of the other books with similar plots. It moved a bit slowly for my liking and the end was played out in an unoriginal and chaotic manner with all the characters gathered together as the mystery is revealed, along with everyone's roles in it.
The second book was a bit more interesting, this time taking place in Regency London. The plot was another one that I've read several times already, of an unsophisticated, low-class young woman being taught to become a lady, with some magic thrown in. But although I found it to be an improvement over Mairelon the Magician it still wasn't as good as Wrede's other books.
So would I recommend A Matter of Magic? Perhaps to someone new to fantasy who hasn't already read several similar books already. But I would probably also try to guide them towards Wrede's other books and suggest that they might want to try those instead. Those who are already fans of Patricia Wrede might want to read A Matter of Magic just because she wrote it, and to them I would just offer a warning that in my opinion it's not her best work.