Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent The Magicians and Mrs. Quent
by Galen M. Beckett

July 29th 2008 by Spectra
Hardcover, 528 pages
0553589822 (isbn13: 9780553589825)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

“It was generally held knowledge among the people who lived on Whitward Street that the eldest of the three Miss Lockwells had a peculiar habit of reading while walking.”

In the fictitious land Altania, Ivy Lockwell has kept her family together since her father suffered a magical breakdown. Intelligent and beautiful, Ivy continues to study her father’s books, hoping to learn the spell that will reverse his ailment. Yet, she must also care for her fussy mother and her younger sisters Rose and Lily. When tragedy befalls her family and they are faced with the threat of being evicted, Ivy takes a position as the governess for the young cousins of Mr. A. Quent, an old friend of her father. Ivy’s trouble adjusting to the rustic countryside after an entire life in the city soon gives way to her fondess for the two children and her fear that Old Magic seeks to harm them. Together with the dashing Mr. Rafferdy, Ivy must draw on her father’s powers as well as her own to save the children, her family, and all of Altania.

Three “books” comprise this rather long novel which reads like Jane Austen meets Diana Wynne Jones. The whole thing’s more like an intricate patchwork quilt, with scraps from many different novels, such as Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and snippets of Dickens.

Probably 80% of the reviews I read about The Magicians say the same thing I wanted to: we felt we shouldn’t like it but we secretly did. I think there’s such fear of plagiarism (ahem) that we forget that most early art came from re-telling or re-painting or re-imagining older pieces. Beckett may have borrowed the structure, but the design and decoration are entirely the author’s own.

You all probably know how I feel about sequels and, sure enough, Beckett’s already working on The House at Durrow Street as a sequel to The Magicians. But I think this volume stands on its own, and would be an excellent choice for hitting the beach, giving to an Austen-loving friend, or recommending for a book club.

This is the very best kind of book – one that’s fun without being vapid, intelligent without being preachy, and fanciful without being frivolous. I’m the first to admit I adore the Bronte sisters and tolerate Austen, and I loved this postmodern take on those styles. Add in the Robin-McKinley-Diana-Wynne-Jones familiarity with and fondness for magic, and it felt almost as though I was greeting an old friend.


  1. This sounds like something I would really enjoy.

  2. This sounds a bit like Sorcery and Cecilia, which I really liked. I hadn't heard of this before, so thanks!



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