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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.