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The Magicians and Mrs. Quent

Continuing this discussion about my reading of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett:

If the first part of the book was like reading a slightly twisted combination of Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice, then the middle part of the book, “Book Two,” was like reading Jane Eyre

Miss Ivy Lockwood travels to a barren, wild estate to be a governess.  She doesn’t see the master of the manor for months on end.  The housekeeper is rude.  Creepy things happen involving the children.  There’s a secret room she’s not supposed to enter.

By the end of Book 2, she’s “Mrs. Quent,” marrying this version of Mr. Rochester.  She also learns she’s not only a witch but also an orphan, and that Mr. Quent set the whole thing up.  He knew who she was all along and brought her back to the creepy place that killed her mother (when she was a child of 3 or so) and his first wife.  So now who’s creepy? 

This part of the book is all written in first person letters to her father.  For at least a hundred pages, we lose the threads of Mr. Rafferty and Mr. Garritt entirely, emphasising the feeling that this truly is a different book and not the one I started reading.  I will give kudos that one villain in the original thread showed up to play an important part in this book, but he escaped, which becomes a rather tiring trend by the end of the overall book.

Finally we’re back to the “main” or “original” story thread for the last 150 pages or so.  I’ll try not to provide spoilers for this part, but still attempt to convey my growing dissatisfaction with the unfolding of the storyline.  Maybe there’s another book coming — I’m sure there is, actually — but there were simply too many things left undone or unsolved. 

Ivy’s main goal all along was to find some cure for her father.  Yet that doesn’t happen — he’s much worse off, even though she solves his riddle and helps saves the day.  The “Magicians” in the title finally begins to make sense in book 3, but my interest was stretched thin.  Only now do we start to get an idea of the politics involved, the great evil that will destroy the world, blah blah blah, the same old fantasy trope.  It’s too late for me to care much. 

Mr. Rafferty only needs twenty pages or so dedicated to his “training” to become the key magician she needs in the final climax of the book.  So why did I read over 500 pages? 

The climax itself…  Groans.  Again, trying not to divulge too many spoilers, Ivy and Mr. Rafferty arrive to stop the great evil.  They’re standing there with bad guys knocking down the door, and she says, “Okay, read the spell.”  He says, “Great, give it to me.  I’ve been practicing it for all of twenty pages or so, but of course I didn’t think to bring the written spell (even though I’ve been carrying it around in my pocket) to the big show down.”  She panics.  “You must remember it!  I remember it perfectly, but I’m just a woman so I can’t even say the magickal words!”  He panics.  “Of course, I do not!”

The great solution?  Ivy writes the spell down with her own blood.

I hate it when protagonists do stupid things (like forget THE spell they need to bring to the showdown!) just to make the conflict appear worse.  Also, I think the author missed an important opportunity.  Several, in fact.

Surely BLOOD would make a significant impact on a spell.  The self sacrifice in blood is revered across many religions and cultures.  Yet the blood-written spell has no discernable impact on the outcome.  A sad miss, I think.  Also, Mr. Rafferty is captured and sort of spaces out, while Ivy does a bunch of “save the day” stuff — but he never knows.  He wakes up, finishes the spell, and they all go home.

Great.  He doesn’t even KNOW what she did.  Nobody but the reader really knows.

She solves her father’s riddle, but he’s still incapacitated.  She’s married to a man who plotted and hid her whole life from her, but she loves him anyway.  (?)  Mr. Rafferty is left alone with his unrequited love for her.  The bad magician gets away, presumably for the next book.  The witch who was hinted at by the rebels (and supposedly–or perhaps not–twisting men into rabid beasts) is never mentioned again.  Mr. Garritt wins, but his thread’s completion is told only after it happens, and ends with him cheering at his enemy’s hanging.  It left a rather sour taste in my mouth, although I still sympathised with Mr. Garritt.  His sister was still a dishrag and a rather clueless idiot, reflected by Garritt himself as he solves his thread.

In fact, by the end, all the women ended up being dishrags in the eyes of the men.  Despite the one thing Ivy did at the end to “free” Mr. Rafferty, he’s the one who finished the spell.  She couldn’t.  He never knew what she did.  So a book that was started by the question, “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?” is answered by:  the men have the power in this society because they’re the only ones who can wield magick. 

Women can only be witches who should be burned in their Wyrdwood forests.  

A well written book, lovely at times, although dependent on many “Austen-esque” situations and characterization.  However, the fantasy thread was too faint and much too slowly paced.  In the end, I was left feeling cold and unsatisfied.

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The Magicians and Mrs. Quent

I’m still reading, slowly, and since I just finished “book one” (not quite half way) I thought it would be a good time to capture some of my thoughts.  I’m torn about this book.  It’s well written and I’m definitely enjoying it — yet there’s something not quite complete in my satisfaction of it.

As some of the scenes unfold, they seem familiar.  Perhaps too familiar.  Many of the characters are like old friends I once knew.  Mrs. Lockwell is very much like Mrs. Bennett of Pride and Prejudice, very loud and shrill (although not as improper) at times and concerned with marrying off her daughters just as any proud mama would be.  There are three daughters, very much like the Dashwood sisters.  Even Mrs. Baydon, Mr. Baydon, and Lady Marsdel remind me of the gossipy neighbor and her married daughter in Sense and Sensibility, with Hugh Laurie’s dry, cynical comments.  Mr. Bennick reminds me of Colonel Brandon. 

Miss Ivy Lockwood counts the pennies and worries constantly about providing for her family, just as Elinor Dashwood did.  She went to a fancy party at Lady Marsel’s house and took sick, similar to Jane’s trip in Pride and Prejudice.  It gave her the opportunity to meet Mr. Rafferty’s family and acquiantances — and now they’ve turned their backs on her, just as they did to poor Jane, because Mr. Rafferty is now going to marry someone else of a more proper standing and fortune.  Even the annoying Mr. Wyble is remarkably similar to Mr. Collins, and the Lockwell’s house is entailed to him.

So while the scenes are amusing in that I try to compare and contrast with the Jane Austen works I’ve read, it also makes The Magicians and Mrs. Quent seem…derivative. 

My other complaint is the pace of the book.  Here I am on page 198 of just shy of 500 pages, and I still don’t know who Mrs. Quent is or who, exactly, the magicians are and what great occurence is supposed to happen.  A Mr. Quent was mentioned about 10 pages ago for the very first time.  Ivy Lockwell has been working on a vague riddle for most of the book, when she wasn’t walking and chatting with Mr. Rafferty, and she finally figured out one small thing — but she (and so I) still have no idea what’s going on.

Not all the characters or story lines are derivative (or if they are, I haven’t read that particular Austen story to recognize it).  I think Mr. Garritt’s story is quite unique, and while he’s slowly slipping into nefarious dealings, his choices have totally made sense and are well motivated.  He’s extremely naive.  Mr. Rafferty is rather unique, too, and I’m assuming one of the “magicians” although he knows nothing about magic and has just recently acquired a magical ring.  Mr. Lockwell is sort of an invalid.  Something horrible happened and he lost his mind, and we know it’s related to the story, and we have his riddle he left for his daughter, but dang it all to Invarel, it’s all unfolding so slowly!

(Oh, for those who can’t stand it, magic is spelled MAGICK.)

It’s an enjoyable read — but slow.  Nothing is happening — except familiar Austen-esque scenes.  The characters are entertaining — in an Austen-esque way.  Although slow, I am intrigued, and I have no cause to cease reading, but I’ve definitely been taking some mental notes about how I will proceed with my own “Austen” fantasy.  This is just too slow, really, and a little too derivative, for what I’d hoped, although it’s an enchanting if slow-paced story.

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Where I Am

I’m going to work on the nagging (haha, not “nagging” according to Sal in the Shanhasson series) scene today in Revision Xibalba even if it kills me!  If I must admit defeat by the time I go to bed, then tomorrow, I’m skipping this scene.  I know what comes later — and it’s easy smoothing/edits not writing a brand new scene. 

Kait, I don’t think I need your character therapist duties — yet.  I know this character.  The problem is I don’t know enough about the plot in this scene.  I have a general sense, but I’ve already started it in the wrong place.  This is a new sub-plot thread, and so some of this exploration is necessary for me — but doesn’t belong on page.  For whatever reason, I have a mental block about it.

Since I don’t have much to report on the writing front, I’ll note a few other things.

I’m currently reading The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett thanks to this post at Fantasy Debut.  It was generally held knowledgeable among the people who know my secret writing projects that I was working on a similar story at one time or another (2007 Fast Draft which needs so much work it’s not even funny).  Magicians is a lovely story, but very very slow paced.  It’s an interesting mix of Regency mores and “new” culture of this world.  I know there are seven old Houses that supposedly controlled or knew magic but that’s about it, and I’m thru the first five chapters.

I got out several packages last Friday AT LAST!  There was great rejoicing heard all about the land as I now have packages winging their way toward WI, VA, TN and OH.  I have one more “Christmas” present to mail to friends in WI, a birthday present (from last September — shame!!) to a friend in MN, and one of my Dad’s acquaintances wants a print out of Survive My Fire.  After that, I might almost be caught up in post office duties.

I need to clean my desk.  I need to clean out the fridge.  I need to sit down and plan out some healthy meals and evaluate my schedule to make sure I’m exercising — I’ve been lax again. 

By then, my writing mo-jo should be back in full swing.  That’s the plan, at least, and I’m sticking to it.

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Inside My Mind

I know I’m probably the last person on the planet to see Gerald Butler’s Phantom of the Opera.

I had a prejudice against Phantom after seeing an older version when I was a kid.  I remember being soooo ticked at Christine for leaving the poor Phantom!  I just hated the whole “love triangle” thing, being forced to choose.  I have a certain expectation for love triangles that most people probably think is pretty whacked.  I mean, look at Rose.  *wg*  Anyway, I wasn’t that excited about seeing the Gerry version.  I mean, I like him well enough, but I wasn’t going to rush right out there to see it.

Then at Christmas, my nephew wanted the sheet music for Phantom.  I ended up hearing Music of the Night, and even added it to the playlist for Return to Shanhasson toward the end.  I loved the song, but it wasn’t DEEP in my head yet.

Thanks to Netflix, I finally decided to get Phantom and watch it.  Oh dear.  I’ve crossed the point of no return.  The Phantom of the Opera is there inside my mind.  I get chills just hearing the overture.  His power over me is growing stronger.  Literally, my mind feels consumed with the darkness, the image of the tormented man hiding and creating his music.  And oh, the end of the movie, where the long-lost ring appears on Christine’s tombstone…  *shivers* 

So between the Phantom and the Character Clinic, I’m behind on my goals.  I’ve watched the movie twice now and I’d really like to watch it one more time before I have to send it back.  Right now, I’m cursing the day I did not do all that the Phantom asked of me!  Anywhere I go from now on, the Phantom is going to be there, whispering, in the back of my mind.

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Mistakes that Shatter the Illusion

The trick to fantastic storytelling is to let the characters make mistakes that are meaningful and significant to the arc, not merely stupidity elements to advance the plot.  The latter shatters the illusion.

It’s like when Zorro fell off Toronado in the first Antonio Banderas version.  Or when the Batcave was so easily destroyed by Jim Carrey’s Enigma.  Or was it Penguin?  I can’t remember (I blocked it from my memory.)  Or Lord help me, when Scarlett turned her back on Tara IMMEDIATELY in that horrible sequel to Gone With the Wind.  It’s those moments that make you scratch your head and roll your eyes.  No one with true understanding of the character would ever allow that to happen.  Right?  Surely Batman would have had SOME security on the Batcave!  RIGHT?

What does this have to do with the Night Angels trilogy I devoured this week?

I finished up book 3 tonight and in my most humble opinion, it was the weakest of the trilogy.  Instead of finishing at a crashing crescendo, it shattered the illusion.  Kylar did something really dumb and it bugged the hell out of me.  His great weapon/gift, the black ka’kari that made him the immortal Night Angel, failed him.  Or he failed it, I’m not sure.  Surely this incredibly powerful artifact that enabled the previous Night Angel to live nearly 700 years would have a few security alarms in it.  Surely the great wetboy I’ve come to admire after well over 1000 pages would notice if someone stole his SWORD?  (while he was wearing it, no less) And replaced it with a fake?  And by the way, his sword was another incredibly powerful artifact. 

It had to happen for the plot, but it shattered the awe-inspiring illusion the story had carried up to that point.  Until then, I would have said this trilogy ranked as one of my all-time favorite reads.  After that stupidity element, the magic was broken for me.  I finished the book and was pleased, but it wasn’t the same.  The veil had been pulled aside, ever so briefly, and I couldn’t forget.

I know.  I’m not a very forgiving reader.  I can’t help it.  Except for this one thing, it was a fantastic series.  Thereafter, a few other tricks/surprises were stretched too thinly.  Because my trust in the illusion had already been shaken?  Very likely.  The surprises just didn’t have that same oomph.  They weren’t as well supported and hinted at, more like TADAH! moments that I didn’t quite buy.

Still, a great trilogy.  I would definitely read more by this author.  But I ended the trilogy not as emotionally invested in the end as I hoped.  Guy Gavriel Kay’s Finovar Tapestry’s final book had me SOBBING.  I read that book at least a decade ago and still love it.  Just thinking about it can make me tear up, my heart aching with all the wonder and magic, agony and suffering, love and victory.  

Beyond the Shadows left me muttering if only…if only… if only.

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Shadow’s Edge by Brent Weeks

Beware, I have entered the Reading Twilight Zone.  I will not come out until I’m finished.  Hence, the perils of letting myself read when I’m supposed to be writing.

I finished book 2 of the Night Angels trilogy last night and it was as good as the first book.  Third book is well underway already this morning.

I’ve always loved assassins (e.g. Gregar), and Kylar doesn’t disappoint.  In this world, assassins are something to be sneered at, and he’s much, much more than even the standard “killer for hire,” aka wetboy.  He struggles, he dies, only to return to life, and only now has he learned the cost of those lives.  The characters aren’t strictly white or black, but a blend of mistakes, honor, morals, beliefs, and confusion.  People die (although this isn’t as bad as a George R.R. Martin wedding, snicker), and there’s a cost for everything.

I think the third book is suffering just a bit because of the demise of the Godking at the end of book 2.  There’s more inter-character conflict than any single antagonist to fight, and characters are trying to work out some of their mistakes.  It’s still good, just not as bam slam thank you ma’am action and surprises as the first two books.  The surprises were excellent.  I mean, when a character isn’t afraid to die, the surprises have to be intense.  Now, Kylar knows the cost he has to pay if he dies and comes back, and now, he’s going to have to face that fear.

I should finish book 3 today and I’ll post my final thoughts.

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The Best Read of 2009

As for reading pleasure, 2009 is starting off with a bang.  I just finished The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks.  Note the time of this post.  No, I don’t have the day off tomorrow.  So I’ll be dragging myself up in a matter of hours for the Evil Day Job, but it was totally worth it.

The dang book was so good I had to read the bit of book 2 at the end even though it’s so late.

I’m too tired to wax poetic about the book’s qualities.  The book is dark.  It opens with children suffering, abusing each other in dismal poverty.  But Azoth took my heart and wouldn’t let me stop reading, and Logan, Jarl, Elene, Uly, Mamma K, and yes, even Master Durzo Blint, took another piece of me.  Azoth’s training as a wetboy was engrossing.  No blow was spared.  Even the terrifying Godking is an incredibly interesting character.

So if this is a sign of all the great stories I’ll be reading in 2009, my giddy reader’s heart shouts bring it on!  Book 2 in this series is next, and I have Stay the Night by Lynn Viehl winging its way to me, too.

Meanwhile, my writer’s heart is feeling rather guilty because all I finished today was a single chapter in the Mayan story.  But I did touch it, and I made some hard cuts.  I need to focus the story better and concentrate on the original concept that’s more unique than what seems to have become rather run of the mill. 

Now it’s an Advil for my eyestrain headache, and off to bed, with visions of lots of hot coffee in the morning while I plug away on my big project at work and steal lustful looks of longing at my stack of books and my waiting story.

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Drollerie Press Chat

To celebrate all the recent releases as well as the holidays, we’ll be having a chat at Drollerie Press Dec. 18th, 10 p.m. – 12 a.m. EST.  Details here.  I’ll be giving away a $20 gift certificate, winner’s choice to Fictionwise or the Drollerie Press bookshop.  Other prizes will include ARCs of yet to be released books and other goodies. 

Hope to see you there!

P.S. I hope I don’t get challenged to write something again.  Although I must confess that the zombie love story was a blast to write.  :mrgreen: :shock:

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Elf Yourself

Do you know why I write like a maniac?  Because if I don’t keep these characters busy, this is what it’s like in my head.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

This one is Rhaekhar (Kevin Sorbo), Gregar (not a very good picture of Adrian Paul), Hades (Jason Isaacs), Ruin (The Rock), and Conn (Clive Owen).

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

This one has a little better pictures of Gregar and Rhaekhar, with Christian Bale (yet to be written Given In Fire novella), Charon (Vin Diesel), and Conn (Clive Owen). This one about made me wet my pants I laughed so hard. 

Huge thanks to Dixie Bell for the link!

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Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione

Larissa managed to pull off something only Lynn Viehl and Laurell K. Hamilton have done recently.  She made me read a book in ONE SITTING.

I picked up Pleasure Unbound over lunch today and then dared to flip through a few pages while I was cooking dinner.  I didn’t really know what to expect as far as the demon angle was concerned.  They’re not my favorite paranormal creature by any means.  Although I’ve enjoyed Larissa’s work before, I didn’t expect to be sucked in so fully.  My eyes are killing me, but the book is finished and I just had to blog about it.

Hells bells indeed!  What a great read.  Very sexy, definitely.  I especially adored the relationship between Eidolon, Wraith, and Shade, three brothers of the Seminus (incubi) demon line.  Tayla is an incredible heroine, and the conflict and sexual attraction between her and Eidolon just burns on the page. 

A mentor once told me that to write a great romance, the conflict had to be extreme.  Like if the hero was a firefighter, the heroine had better be an arsonist.  In Pleasure Unbound, Tayla is a demon slayer, a member of the Aegis.  As far as the demons are concerned, the Aegis are the murderers.  When mutilated demons begin showing up at Underworld General Hospital (UGH, giggles), of course Eidolon suspects the Aegis of foul deeds.  Naturally, he looks upon the injured human slayer with suspicion, but he’s a doctor first, demon second, although he has a hard time remembering that once his incubus nature takes over.  Tayla and Eidolon have very solid reasons for hating and fearing each other, but their relationship develops anyway.

Other than a few little POV shifts (I’m a purist, so I don’t like shifts mid-scene), I was treated to a fun, engrossing story.  This is definitely a world I’m looking forward to vising again!