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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.

2 thoughts on “The Magicians and Mrs. Quent

  1. Ah, now I understand your twitter!

    It sounds on the outset like my type of book but idiot women characters do me in. Glad I read your review.

  2. Hmmmm – sounds like one to get from the library…

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