Saturday, May 19, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett -- Historical Fantasy

Set in a fictional fantasy universe that strongly resembles eighteenth or nineteenth century England, this fantasy novel takes plots and characters from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and adds fantasy elements to create an entirely new story. The title is spoilerish and misleading so please ignore it. The main character, Ivy Lockwell, is trying to hold her family together in the face of poverty. Her father, a once respected doctor and magician, has lost his mind and her mother and frivolous youngest sister can not be counted on to economize. Ivy's middle sister Rose is lost in her own world. All her life Ivy has been fascinated with magic and wonders what would happen if she was able to do magic. Of course magic is forbidden to women and no woman has ever been a magician. Women were once witches but everyone knows witches are evil and there are no more witches in Altania. Even so, Ivy is clever and her father has left her a mysterious riddle on which the entire fate of Altania rests. Dashton Rafferdy is a bored, frivolous fop who can't be bothered to discuss anything more serious than the color of his coat. He enjoys drinking punch in low taverns with his friend Eldyn Garritt. Then Rafferdy meets Ivy and his boredom evaporates. He finds himself enjoying her company more and more but he's the son of an aristocrat and Ivy is only gentry. Their friendship goes against all rules of society. His life also changes when he receives a mysterious magical ring that can not be removed. He tries to fight the magic but is drawn to it at the same time. Eldyn is down on his luck. His drunkard of a father died and left his two children with nothing but debts. Eldyn will do anything to ensure his sister Sashie's safety. He'd love to join the priesthood but he hasn't the money. He's fascinated with the illusionists who work in the theaters but that's not considered a respectable occupation. An encounter with a notorious highwayman brings new opportunities for Eldyn - opportunities that he may pay for with his life one way or another. When tragedy strikes the Lockwell family, Ivy removes to the countryside to become a governess for the two young wards of father's former friend. The children tell stories about ghost ladies and the locals tell Ivy to steer clear of the mysterious old patch of trees known as the Wyrdwood. The ancient trees or someone in the Wyrdwood is trying to draw the children in and Ivy must figure out how to save them and save herself. Secrets are exposed and old acquaintances are renewed and battles are fought before the thrilling conclusion.

I couldn't put this book down for wanting to know the secrets and the outcome of the magical plots. Yet it started slow and seems to mash together several cliched plots along with elements of English history turned fantasy. It's really three books in one. The first third of the book reads like a Jane Austen comedy of manners. It's a bit dark but fun and enjoyable. The second third is Jane Eyre with magic and the final third is a fantasy with elements of the comedy of manners plot. The first book is the best written and the one I found most enjoyable. Readers will recognize characters from Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility and enjoy getting to know Ivy and a host of other new characters. Ivy is strong and brave and a heroine worthy of Jane Austen. She is by far, my favorite character yet I did not like the decision she made towards the end of part 2 though I understand it given her circumstances. My other favorite character is Rafferdy. His plot line is a journey to adulthood and I especially liked seeing him mature. I was intrigued by Rose and hope she plays a larger role in future books. I enjoyed this book very much though not as much as the original source material. I can't wait to read the next two but alas the library doesn't have them. I have to part with some birthday money to buy them instead. The wait for the mail is killing me!

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