The Magicians and Mrs. Quent
by Galen Beckett
498pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.1/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.53/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.57/5

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett is the first book in the Mrs. Quent trilogy, a Regency-esque fantasy set in a secondary world. The book itself is also split into three disparate but connected sections spanning subgenres: the first is primarily fantasy of manners, the second is mainly Gothic fantasy, and the last has more in common with traditional high fantasy with its focus on magic and higher stakes. While I feel that it’s a flawed novel in many ways, it’s also one of the most engrossing books I’ve read lately—in fact, the first thing I did after finishing it was order the next two books, The House on Durrow Street and The Master of Heathcrest Hall, because I really want to know what happens next!

While the Lockwell family lives in a respectable (though not fashionable) part of the city of Invarel, their financial situation has been in decline over the last few years, making it difficult for them to continue to afford their residence. Mr. Lockwell, once an esteemed doctor and scientist, has been confined to the house for nearly ten years after the practice of magick left him incapable of coherent communication. Only Ivy, his sensible eldest daughter, can calm him when agitated, and it is she whom her mother and sisters have relied upon to hold the family together since his affliction.

Before his illness, Mr. Lockwell taught Ivy the principles of problem solving, and she believes there must be a way to she can help her father. Since magick caused his ailment, Ivy is convinced magick must also be the solution and spends much of her time scouring the books in his library looking for answers, even though it’s dreadfully improper for women to do magick.

When picking up books her father scattered all over the library one day, Ivy discovers a title she’s never seen before but doesn’t give it much thought, assuming one of her youngest sister’s books was misplaced. However, she takes a closer look at it after she begins to suspect her father is leaving hints for her to seek that particular book and learns from its inscription that her father meant to give it to her for her thirteenth birthday, which occurred right after his magickal mishap. When Ivy finds a riddle hidden within it, she’s certain her father knew what was to befall him at the time and left her a clue that will lead to the answers she’s been looking for all these years. Ivy is determined to solve this mystery for her father’s sake, but more may be at stake than one person—the fate of her entire world may hinge on her figuring out this puzzle before it’s too late.

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent is a delightful novel with a wonderful heroine and entertaining conversations, but it’s far from a perfect novel. Though I devoured it—even loved reading it!—it’s best enjoyed if one does not think about it too hard. It’s one of those books in which many problems could be solved by better communication, whether it’s people telling others important information earlier or mysterious strangers actually explaining what’s happening instead of being cryptic. There are also times in the second section that I didn’t think Ivy behaved completely in character in order to draw out that mystery as long as possible. However, despite all these quibbles, it was immensely entertaining and I could hardly put it down!

The first section has obvious similarities to the work of Jane Austen with its focus on society, relationships, and class inequality and serves as an introduction to the city of Invarel and the three main protagonists. Though this is primarily Ivy’s story, it also follows two other characters: Mr. Rafferdy, a lord’s son who is more interested in entertainment than business and responsibilities, and Mr. Garritt, a man struggling to provide for himself and his sister after their father squandered their money. The first chapter belongs to Ivy, and I knew I was going to like her from the very first line:


It was generally held knowledge among the people who lived on Whitward Street that the eldest of the three Miss Lockwells had a peculiar habit of reading while walking.

In addition to being a reader, she’s clever, kind, dutiful, and courageous, and she was my favorite of all the characters. With all her wonderful character traits, she almost seemed a little too perfect, but she did have a tendency to be a little recklessly adventurous at times, plus she could be a little judgmental and quick to anger (though she was also quick to reassess her first impression and feel remorse upon realizing she had made an error).

It took me a little longer to warm to the other two protagonists, especially since Ivy’s story begins with a clear direction given her goal to help her father, and it’s not immediately apparent how the other two fit. Mr. Rafferdy’s first chapter involves discussion with completely different characters at a party, and Mr. Garritt’s first chapter largely involves discussion with yet more completely different characters at a tavern (though at least he has his own goal of getting a loan while Mr. Rafferdy is rather aimless at first). They do eventually tie into Ivy’s story more, although Mr. Garritt’s story is much more loosely connected than Mr. Rafferdy’s—especially since Mr. Rafferdy immediately falls head over heels for Ivy and makes every effort to ensure he runs into her as often as possible, even though a lord’s son can never marry a woman of such low status.

The second part of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent is completely different from the first and last, as it switches to first person perspective in the form of Ivy’s journal. This spookier section is commonly compared to Jane Eyre, and it’s very different in tone from the lighter first. Ivy is a governess to two children, and she encounters some mysteries in the countryside: the children keep insisting they see someone outside who talks to them, and people in a nearby town find Ivy’s appearance unnerving. Some may find the change in point of view jarring, but I enjoyed spending more time with Ivy and learning more about the past with her.

The final section returns to Invarel and the original structure, and this part is where Mr. Rafferdy and Mr. Garritt’s roles become more necessary (though the former more than the latter). Book Three is focused on magick and political turmoil, and all characters are involved with different aspects of the former while Mr. Garritt’s adventures allow a glimpse of the rebellion against the king.

Though certainly not as witty or sharp as its authorial influences, The Magicians and Mrs. Quent is a thoroughly captivating read with a compelling main character at its center. It does have a tendency to put following the plot line before sense, but since it seems as though this novel is setting up a larger story and there are still a lot of unanswered questions, it’s possible at least some of these issues will be addressed in the sequels. It’s not a thoughtful book with much depth, but it’s a great book for those times one just wants to be immersed in a story—and I am very much looking forward to learning what happens next in The House on Durrow Street!

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

This book is June’s selection from a poll on Patreon.