The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, by Galen Beckett

Galen Beckett's 2008 novel The Magicians and Mrs. Quent features a plot cobbled together from the works of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, and Henry James, bound together by a hefty dose of classic fantasy. The end result falls short of Susanna Clarke's thematically similar Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but is readable enough in its own right.

Beckett's heroine is Ivy Lockwell, the eldest daughter of a respectable but impoverished family in the island nation of Altania. Everyone knows that Ivy's father was driven mad by his magical studies, but sensible, studious Ivy has begun to wonder about the project he was working on before his illness. Unfortunately, when the Lockwell family is struck by an unexpected loss, Ivy is forced to abandon her investigation into her father's work. Instead, she accepts a job offer from a mysterious friend of the family—a Mr. Quent, who offers her a post as the governess for his two young wards.

I can accept—even appreciate—what Beckett was trying to do here. He delivers a reasonable facsimile of historical language, and his blend of 19th century novels with fantasy and horror elements probably felt a lot fresher in 2008, a year before Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies kicked off an avalanche of similar mash-ups. Sadly, Beckett forgot to steal a memorable love story from the various novels he was strip-mining, despite romance being a major draw for fans of both Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. Instead, Ivy is torn between two equally uninspiring love interests, causing a sizable portion of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent to fall flat. Beckett has since released two more novels in this series, but my interest in reading them hinges upon two possibilities: either Ivy's suitors suddenly develop actual personalities (not just “off-brand Mr. Darcy” or “less-tormented Mr. Rochester”), or the story devotes less time to their painfully boring attempts at courtship.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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