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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

Beckett's novel was inspired when he asked himself "what if there was a fantastical cause underlying the social constraints and limited choices confronting a heroine in a novel by Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë?" As a result, the first part of the novel owes a heavy debt to Pride and Prejudice, the second part is a mash-up of Jane Eyre and The Turn of the Screw, and sprinkled throughout are Dickensian touches.  Beckett clearly meant this to be a pastiche, but I could not help thinking that a little more originality in the plot would have been good.

Where he is original is in the magical details of the world -- an ancient and dangerous wood, seven houses of power, magical schools, troupes of illusionists, mysterious planets, threatening aliens, and a wackadoodle rotational period causing the number of hours in a day to vary wildly.  All of this is fascinating in an of itself, but at least so far (this is the first book of a trilogy), it does not cohere, and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out whether the variations in the length of days were remotely plausible and what exactly were the rules of the (apparently) two kinds of magic.  Moreover, the question that inspired the novel, which I find quite interesting, is not answered.

Which is not to say I did not enjoy the book; to the contrary, despite its flaws I found it enjoyable.  This book contains the bones of a very good story, and I am looking forward to the next two novels to see what happens.


  1. This sounds intriguing. I'm going to give it a read.

  2. Do! I just started the second book in the trilogy, and a lot of reviews have said the second and third books are much better than the first.