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The Magicians and Mrs. Quent    by Galen Beckett order for
Magicians and Mrs. Quent
by Galen Beckett
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Spectra, 2009 (2008)
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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Galen Beckett's The Magicians and Mrs. Quent is a delightfully gothic fantasy, with faint echoes of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and even Baroness Orczy. It's set in Altania, where invaders destroyed most of the Wyrdwood, the primeval forest that covered the island, with fire and iron - only a few ragged patches remain. Day and night fluctuate wildly, the inhabitants having to constantly consult an almanac to learn how long the lumenal (daylight) will be.

I loved the heroine right away - Ivy Lockwell always has her nose in a book. How does she survive without constant bumps and bruises? It's an eldritch ability according to her younger sisters, romantic Lily and dreaming Rose. They've lived a quiet life with their mother since magick drove their beloved father mad. Now Ivy reads every tome she can lay her hand on, in an attempt to find a cure for her father, guided by clues that, from the depths of his madness, he leaves for her.

Other key players in the story are impoverished Eldyn Garritt, who strives to make his fortune in order to give his beloved sister Sashie a better life, and Eldyn's wealthy best friend (and drinking companion) Dashton Rafferdy who, despite his obvious intelligence and wit, expresses the ambition to be 'one of those inconstant and undependable young gentlemen'. Eldyn ends up in debt to flamboyant highwayman Westen, who forces him (with threats to Sashie) to acts of treason. Dashton is manipulated by a man named Bennick into learning magick, something he would never have chosen of his own volition, while Eldyn hones a talent for illusion.

While this goes on, Ivy and Dashton meet. A friendship develops. Were their stations in life equal, it would have led to more, as they are strongly attracted to each other. However family tragedy leads Ivy to seek a position as a governess with her father's friend, Alasdare Quent, and they are separated. Mr. Quent's mansion, Heathcrest, lies near a patch of Wyrdwood, leading Ivy into danger and to discovery of secrets in her own past. As is typical in a gothic romance, she marries Alasdare Quent, who turns out to be a government agent with ties to Rafferdy's father.

When circumstances send Ivy back to town again, she enlists Dashton in a perilous quest to help her father, and to prevent members of the Vigilant Order of the Silver Eye from opening a door that must not be opened. It's an exciting finale that left me very anxious to read the next episode in this excellent series, The House on Durrow Street.

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