Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

Short review: Becket is trying too hard. Loads of Austen, a bit of Bronte, some Dickens, magic, a highwayman, court intrigue (vaguely described), and a sprinkling of Loveceraft make this an unwieldy, slow-moving work. It doesn't help that it's also the first in the series and is trying to lay ground for future books.

Longer review:

A bunch of Austen, a touch of Bronte, and a dash of Turn of the Screw, some Dickens, a little bit of Lovecraft--I should be enchanted. There's even a highwayman and a down-on-his-luck noble living by his wits, and there is magic, intrigue, and a spooky wood.

I expected to be enchanted.

I wanted to be enchanted.

I was not.

I tried reading straight, flipping ahead, skimming, flipping-ahead-then-turning back, all to no avail. I remained outside and uninvolved.

One problem is that none of the situations have any real edge. House entailed away to an unpleasant cousin? No problem. The sisters have a six month stay, guaranteed, and another house if only Ivy can find a job to support the move--and she does, right away. Similar familiar situations (creepy house, strange governessing situation, odd illnesses, courtship by the boss, unsuitable and attractive suitor) also fall strangely flat. They are there, but they haven't got the sense of real dilemma present in the originals.

The setting is also mildly annoying; it's almost Victorian England--it has similar historical events and apparently similar laws, but is given a different name and bizarre day and night lengths that vary to no readily apparent pattern or reason; people keep having to look in the almanac to see how long the day will be, and I kept expecting that to matter, and keep wondering what makes this variance happen (To be fair, Beckett may have explained that bit during one of the points where I was skimming).

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent has got just enough promise to be frustrating; I persisted in wanting to like it, I persisted in being mildly bored instead.


  1. I am about 100 pages into this, and wondering if I want to keep trying...I keep expecting to start caring more, but maybe that's not going to happen.

  2. It never did for me.

    He does a fair imitation of Austen, a rather poor imitation of Bronte, and an ok Dickens, but the melange never comes together to anything compelling.