Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Review 2016 #1 - Galen Beckett's The House on Durrow Street

The House on Durrow Street (Mrs. Quent Book 2) by Galen Beckett
Published by: Spectra
Publication Date: September 28th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 704 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
Ivy has more than she could ever have wished for. When she went to Heathcrest Hall she had hoped to earn enough money to open up the family house on Durrow Street and remove her sisters from odious familial obligations. Now returned to Invarel she has opened up her old home, with her husband and former employer Mr. Quent by her side. The house undoubtedly belonged to a magician, but to Ivy and her sisters it is home despite all it's oddities. The ever watching eyes carved out of wood, which tend to be unnerving to the workers refurbishing the house, are there to protect Ivy's family, constantly observing their well-being and safety. But what else might they be protecting? Ivy's father was a great magician and the house definitely has its secrets. Soon a door is discovered bricked up behind a wall, and awhile later it's mate on the other side of the room is stumbled upon. Doors of great craftsmanship and beauty that no one would rightly cover, unless they needed protecting. Items in the house are also behaving curiously. The clock on the mantel is more accurate than the most up-to-date almanac and there's a journal of her father's that Ivy discovers is slowly revealing it's entries in a haphazard manner. If Ivy knows her father, all this is to lead her on her path to becoming the heroine and savior of Altania her father believes her to be.

But distractions are in Ivy's way, in the form of societal obligations. Mr. Quent is always busy. Before he was away from home all the time, but now that he's in Invarel he's just as occupied, rising in the ranks of society. While Ivy's sisters are excited about the prospects of their higher stations, Ivy has hundreds of concerns, from bringing her sisters out into society, to new friendships with the likes of the great Lady Crayford. With unrest in town can she trust these new acquaintances? Because a dear old friend, Dashton Rafferdy, is at the heart of the unrest. Rafferdy has taken his father's seat in the Hall of Magnates. Being so politically placed is making a man of this rake. The king is ill, he is in fact dying, and factions are forming within the Citadel. There are two waring parties of magicians, and Rafferdy is on the wrong side, not aligning himself with Lord Valhain, the king's black dog who has the terrifying Lady Shayde as his personal weapon. With the lack of rebellions and risings associated with the "rightful king" Huntley Morden these other magicians are determined to keep the rebellion fomenting by publicly turning against magic itself. Because magicians will be blamed for terrorist acts. Even illusionists are threatened. Yet could all this be tied to the threat Ivy and Rafferdy faced before? Could all this be in aid of the Ashen? And will they attempt an even greater rising, this time at the Evengrove? But most worrying of all, what happens when the red planet Cerephus gets even closer?

It is a rare occurrence for an author to create a group of characters and make you love each and every one of them. It's even rarer for this to happen in a love triangle. I quite literally can not think of one where all three of the characters held equal space in my heart. And if you say you actually like George Wickham I will smack you right now! He was so up to something from his first appearance in Pride and Prejudice. There is always a weak link. One character that just isn't up to snuff and therefore you're secretly rooting for them to fail. Since the first page of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent I was shipping Ivy and Rafferdy. By the very title of the first book you know that Ivy isn't going to end up with him. She's going to end up with the, at that point unknown, Mr. Quent. So going further into the narrative Mr. Quent already had a black mark against him. I didn't know him but I knew he was going to cause trouble. And then he arrives and is stalwart and upstanding and just an all around good guy. Yes, I still wanted Ivy to be with Rafferdy, but I couldn't fault her marrying Mr. Quent, he is so wonderful in his own way. Galen Beckett has created his own little Catch-22. He has made such wonderful characters that I am conflicted as to who would bring them greater happiness. I keep thinking, it HAS to be Rafferdy because he helped Ivy defeat The Vigilant Order of the Silver Eye and she makes him a better man! But then she completes Mr. Quent who was so wounded by the death of his first wife all those years ago. Seriously, if this was a pick your own adventure book I would be screwed.

Of course there is always an exception to every rule. It's like it's own rule am I right? So when I say "I love every character" what I mean is "I love every character except..." And I'm not talking about the characters that you are meant to hate, because you eventually come to love hating them. I'm talking about the characters you just don't like. In this case it's Eldyn. You're probably saying, who's Eldyn right about now. In my review of the first book I mentioned him in passing as Rafferdy's best friend. In this review I've glossed over him almost entirely with lumping him in as one of the illusionists, which he is. Yet he is one of the three principal characters in this series and a third of the narrative belongs to him. So perhaps I should explain why I've omitted him. In The Magicians and Mrs. Quent he has a rather boring storyline about his sister and some rebels. These sections were excruciating. If I had to read about him at least Rafferdy could be present right? The fact that he didn't die in the first book was a major source of contention with me. I should have given more credit to Galen. Because in The House on Durrow Street if there's one surprise it's the redemption of the character of Eldyn Garritt. I know. I'm as surprised as you that my opinion could be changed so drastically.

With books this big it's hard to cover everything that happens in one review. I could write several reviews of The House on Durrow Street and never repeat myself and still have things to talk about. But this redemption of Eldyn is, I think, the most interesting. Yes, his learning to become an illusionist and eventually a performer at The Theatre of the Moon is fascinating, as is his paramour Dercy, but what's more surprising is that Eldyn's story is the driving force of this book. The simple line of "even illusionists are threatened" from above encapsulates more than you can imagine. Because what lies underneath is a dark mystery that keeps you turning the pages waiting to find out the truth. Because illusionists are turning up dead. Of course only fellow illusionists could make this connection. Eldyn, in trying to support that rebel loving sister of his is straddling the world of the church, where he works as a clerk, and the world of illusion, where he is learning his art. The church has strong opinions on illusionists, all of them bad. But it's only through being a part of both of these worlds that Eldyn is able to see the greater picture, to uncover the conspiracy of the church using magic to exert control. They are harming and harnessing magic to their own purposes. Purposes that are almost too dark to discuss. But when you see the full extent of the conspiracy in it's reveal you will be astounded and hopefully agree with me that you were seriously doing a disservice to Mr. Garritt.

With Mr. Garritt being revealed as an illusionist the three branches of magic are represented in our three protagonists, Mrs. Quent, the witch, Rafferdy, the magician, and Eldyn, the illusionist. What's interesting about Galen's worldbuilding is that he doesn't just go into the customs and mores of society, he goes far into outer space and alien forces, and closer to home with genetics. Because witch, magician, and illusionist are all born this way. Which given that illusionists are homosexual I think it's nice to have someone pointing out even in a fantasy world that they are born that way. It's genetics people not something that is in need of deprogramming. Witches are born to witches, in fact it is very rare for a witch to have a male child, but if she does that child is an illusionist. Magicians just descend down the male line of the seven great houses with some having the power and some not. Hence the Hall of Magnates is literally littered with real and wannabe magicians. What comes about in The House on Durrow Street is a distinct segregation of the types of magic and fear-mongering. The magicians in power in the Hall of Magnates use their influence to make war on magic, particularly the "natural" magics of witches and illusionists, though if push comes to shove they will totally use those "natural" powers for their own gain. Likewise they instill fear in the populace to hate all magic, hiding their own. Because of all the branches of magic, magicians are the most easily corrupted by the power they need in order to work their magics.

Going back to outer space I have one question lingering at the back of my mind, and that is, is this world of Altania perhaps our future? Go with me on this, it's kind of a reverse Star Wars with our future looking like our past, but it's possible. The days and nights are of varying duration and the planets are all akimbo, but perhaps over time that could happen. Ivy talks of a time when days and nights were fixed. Here in our world after the winter equinox we gain a few minutes of sun every day until the summer equinox where we lose a few minutes of sun every day, unless you live at the equator and then it's twelve hours of light and twelve hours of dark everyday, year round. But this is to do with the moon and the tides and the planets. Now imagine something happening to knock them off course, or even just as time passes and the planets paths start to degrade, might Ivy's world come to be? Could night and day no longer be dependable? Could Earth's rotation be random? I wonder how this plays into crops and trees and even grass. And here again is why I love this book, it makes me think, it makes me imagine. I wonder about things and question things that I thought of as just accepted. Yes, there are stories I've read about night falling, forever, but never have I read a story where it's handled so deftly and also so woven into the society and their customs. I seriously just need more of this world, more of this story. I literally never want it to end. Ever.


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