Monday, September 3, 2012

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

Before reading The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett, I hadn't realized that there is a term for this subgenre of fantasy literature, even though it's one I find highly enjoyable. Mannerpunk, or Fantasy of Manners, applies to many of my favorite reads that employ magic in an historical (often Regency or Victorian) setting. Though The Magicians and Mrs. Quent is set in an alternate universe, the societal rules in the book feel very much like Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters.

Ivy Lockwell is the daughter of a magician, but it's been several years since her father was well enough to practice magic. He now lives mostly in the attic of their house, occasionally throwing books in a fit of silent rage. Ivy, her mother, and her two sisters subside on the income from some of Mr. Lockwell's old investments, but it's a pinched and economical lifestyle that they are forced to adopt. When Ivy and her sisters gain a chance introduction to a handsome young lord who appears to be paying Ivy special attention, their future looks bright -- but a sudden tragedy causes Ivy to instead take a position as a governess to the wards of one of her father's friends, the gruff and solemn Mr. Quent. At Heathcrest, Mr. Quent's foreboding home, Ivy learns that there is more to magic than she had previously supposed. . . .

I thought this was an excellent read, full of intricate detail and strong characters, and a plot that moved just fast enough but not too fast. It felt a lot like a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, but well-done enough that I felt the similarities added to, rather than detracted from, the book's appeal. I'll be reading the next book in the series, The House on Durrow Street, soon.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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