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The House on Durrow Street

The House on Durrow Streethouse-on-durrow-street

Galen Beckett

Ballatine Books, NY,NY  2010

ISBN:978-0-345-52271-9

I must confess that the reason I picked up this sequel to The Magicians and Mrs. Quent is that I wanted a book I would be able to put down.  I was pleased to find that the second book is better written than the first.

Mr. Garrit finds a friend among the Siltheri, the illusionists.  The love scene between him and Dercy is quite tender and sweet.  Mrs. Quent finds a journal of her fathers and bittersweet we find that he made the same errors in judgment that Mrs. Quent has made.  As she becomes Lady Quent and is swept up by high society we are swept up along with her.

It is Rafferdy the magician who holds the story together through the two books.  He is caught up between his habit of being useless and entertaining and finding himself in positions of authority.  He must learn the truth of the adage that he who does nothing does the most harm.  Thankfully his curiosity feeds our own as he explores the occult, the hidden truths, of this world.

As we learn a bit about the history of this world through Mrs. Quent’s father’s journal and from Mr. Rafferdy’s father we better understand some of the odd social stylings.  From the illusionists and from the still frustrating astronomical references we get hints about the threat that is truly the center of the story.  This also helps in appreciating the magical system.  We also get to explore the magical house as it is renovated for the family to move back in.

The secondary characters are still rather two dimensional.  It’s very difficult to care about the coming out party of Mrs. Quent’s sisters although this sets the scene for a great deal of important action.  I continue to be intrigued by the wildwood and Mrs. Quent’s relationship to the trees.  This is much more pronounced in this book.

It’s encouraging to find the author improving her skill as she continues to write.  There is a third book and maybe I’ll get to it before the year is out.  It’s not a compelling tale but it’s a nice escape.  Some of that I’m sure is still the allusion to the English authors mentioned in my review of the first book in the series The Magicians and Mrs. Quent

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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Fantasy

 

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The Magicians and Mrs. Quent    51WZjMJGM6L._SL160_

Galen Becket

Bantam Books, NY, NY 2008

ISBN: 978-0-553-58982-5

The flyleaf of this book asks “What if there were a fantastical cause underlying the social constraints and limited choices confronting a heroine in a novel by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte?”  This is a first novel for Galen Becket and perhaps in attempting to answer this question she has taken on a bit too large a task.

I must admit that I am not a great fan of the literary novels of those famous women.  I do not have the capacity to compare the style or the allusions of this novel to their works.  I do find that in attempting to emulate this style Ms. Becket frustrates my own modern sensibilities.

Perhaps I have read too much of science fiction.  I am irritated by the unexplained oddities of time and celestial mechanics that play such a large part in setting the scene for this work.  I am not at all happy with the incongruities of magic and magical systems.  The book hints that it is a genetic difference between men and women that also differentiates their abilities to do magic.  Yet at one point in the book is the, admittedly rare, example of a man doing “women’s magic”.  Our main character has a great comprehension of the magic of men but somehow is unable to form the words upon her lips.

Much like the historical novels, this book seems to take much time setting up the story before it actually gets to the action of the story.  When it does occur, the resolution of the problem happens very quickly and without the detail in narrative, as though it is unimportant.  This is a book of manners and style and cultural commentary rather than a story with attention to plot.  The plot is there, and it has its twists and turns as any good mystery might.  It is just buried under odd and often unnecessary detail.

On a positive note the characters are delightfully drawn in vivid detail.  Even though they are confronted with many personal challenges, and they change to accommodate.  We see those changes observed by others in that society setting rather than truly felt by the characters themselves.  In some ways this reinforces the lightness of the piece.  In other ways it reads to the depth and integrity of the characters themselves.

These characters are likable.  The circumstances draw us into the fantasy in the way the British upper classes always have.  We see ourselves in the lush apartments or struggling to make do or attempting to better ourselves as though social climbing was obligatory to such betterment.  It is a world apart, and therefore fascinating.  I believe it would still be so without the odd celestial physics and awkward magical system.

The book was readable enough that I am curious to see where the sequel heads.  I would like to hope that the writing style improves with practice and experience.  I can wish that the next book will depend on this first for the character exposition and much of that will be left behind in favor of the actual story.

This is not a book I would rush to read.  It was, however, a nice distraction for a time when there was “nothing to read in the house.”

For a review of the sequel see The House on Durrow Street

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Fantasy

 

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