lallis_folly: (words_stay)
[personal profile] lallis_folly
In a house on Whitward Street lived a family with three daughters. The eldest, Ivy, was the sensible one. Lily, the middle daughter, was far too enamoured of romances, while Rose, the youngest, was a bit...shy. Unfortunately for the Lockwells, Mr. Lockwell had gone quite mad some years before, so Mrs. Lockwell had done her best to raise her daughters mostly alone. While all mothers dream of high marriages for their daughters -- and Mrs. Lockwell was certain Ivy had snared the attention of a certain gentleman -- it was unlikely that the Lockwell daughters would do nearly so well as their mother hoped.

The setting of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent is very similar to early eighteenth-century England, the England we know from Pride and Prejudice, but Altania is not our Earth. This planet is, instead, part of a solar system of twelve planets, one of which has such a long revolutionary period that it has not been seen in the heavens since before recorded history. It is known only as part of myth and fable. But now it returns, bringing magical danger with it.

The book is oddly constructed in three parts. "Oddly," because the first and third part take place in the Altanian city of Invarel (analogous to London) and have multiple third-person viewpoint characters, while the middle part is a first-person narrative by Ivy Lockwell that can be best compared to Jane Eyre, and the tone is somewhat different from the other two sections.

It was Galen Beckett's stated intention to explore what would happen if there were a "fantastical cause underlying the social constraints and limited choices confronting a heroine in a novel by Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë." It is not surprising, then, that The Magicians and Mrs. Quent should read like a novel written by either of those two ladies. Or both, actually, given the differences between the sections.

The book is very entertaining, and the magic, while an integral part of the plot, is more or less downplayed. One point of interest is that days and nights are not of fixed duration as our own are, so a very long "lumenal" might be followed by a much shorter "umbral" or vice versa.

Such a short summary does not nearly do justice to a plot which involves marriage, magic, highwaymen, revolution and agents of the Crown. Fans of Austen or Brontë who are willing to take a chance on a fantasy novel (and I know that many people are -- somewhat short-sightedly -- not) would probably enjoy it.

Cross-posted to [ profile] webofbooks
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