Friday, June 30, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner {Put This One on Your TBR List} Book Review: The Mrs. Quent Trilogy by Galen Beckett

{Put This One on Your TBR List}

Book Review: The Mrs. Quent Trilogy by Galen Beckett

by Karen S. Wiesner

Galen Beckett is the alter ego of fantasy author Mark Anthony, who's best known for his Dungeons & Dragons offerings in some of that series' most iconic settings. His original novel fantasy series, The Last Rune, proved his interest in witches in unexpected places with heroine Dr. Grace Beckett, who traveled from a modern setting into the alternative reality of Eldh and learned she was capable of manipulating the shape of natural energy called the Weirding. Similarly, the heroine in The Mrs. Quent Trilogy, Ivoleyn "Ivy" Lockwell, possesses a power that's forbidden in the time and place this sequence is set in. Women aren't allowed to do magic, but Ivy's been drawn to it since she was a child. As the unmarried, eldest daughter of a poverty-stricken family after her magician father inexplicably went mad, she's studied magical history for as long as she can remember, in part hoping to find a way to help her father, who lives his life in a kind of fugue that Ivy alone seems to be able to penetrate. Ivy's power is taught to her directly by the trees in the primal, partially sentient groves of the Wyrdwood (as in "weird"; the Old English term "wyrd" loosely translating as "destiny"; hence Ivy's ability is to shape fate).

The Mrs. Quent Trilogy could be categorized in many ways: A Victorian epic with fantastical elements, romantic historical gothic mystery, even "retro-modernist fantasy" fits. The author began the project by binge reading 19th Century novels, and that influence is very prominent here in each of the installments. In fact, it's what drew me to the first book, The Magicians and Mrs. Quent. As a teenager, I couldn't get enough of gothic romances with the dark heroes who could easily have been villains. In my late 20s, I fell in love with Victorian era novels that displayed an almost over the top picture of a society trying to balance polite formalities and courtesies against darker under dealings and even some political intrigue. I loved these stories with piquant humor, fashionably bedecked men and women that placed such a high import on money and social class, and elaborate dating dos and don'ts that rarely worked when combined with passionate, romantic temperaments. The settings were always so enchanting as well: From stylish streets in the city to windswept, rugged moorlands where sprawling family estates were many times dark and terrifying and populated with mysterious characters that made you wonder who was the hero, who was the villain.

The Mrs. Quent Trilogy encompasses all that I've come to adore about these genres and stylized novels. With magic and ancient forces thrown in aplenty, I knew within moments of reading the very familiar first sentence ("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.") that I would be captivated by this series. Beckett's motivation for the original story that carried into the two sequels was: "What if there was a fantastical cause underlying the social constraints and limited choices confronting a heroine in a novel by Jane Austin or Charlotte Brontë?" That is, in essence, the framework of this series.

Setting is one of the most fascinating aspects of The Mrs. Quent Trilogy. Long ago, Altania had been covered by the Wyrdwood, an ancient forest, and its rule was total until men in ships landed on the shore, intent on making room for settlements. The Wyrdwood fought back after witches awakened the power of the wood, compelling it to rise up. The forest's fury was only subdued by the first great magician of old. In the "modern times" the series is set, only a few ragged patches of the Wyrdwood remain.

On the island nation of Altania, reality is subtly different in part because of outlaw magicians dabbling with uncertain forces they seek to control. Ancient forces have begun to insinuate into the government, changing the world as arcane powers take hold. Days and nights are far from consistent. Each family consults an almanac that allows them to prepare for the unpredictable long or short umbrals, but, as forces prevail, the almanacs' forecasts begin to fail. I absolutely loved this detail that heightened the shift from lumenal to lumenal, umbral to umbral.

Befitting a saga of this type, three sisters--one romantic, one prophetic, and one studious--are coming of age. With the family fortune's dwindling and their mother without a head for budgeting and finances, Ivy must give up any romantic notions about marrying well, if at all, even after she finds herself charmed by a perfectly jaded rapscallion of a gentleman, Mr. Rafferdy, a very resistant descendent of one of the seven Old Houses from which all magicians originated from. Filled with the bitter disappointment at having her hopes for a match that could have been both beneficial to her family's financial well-being along with her own silent wish for true love dashed, Ivy is compelled to become a governess for the reclusive Mr. Quent and his charges at the country Heathcrest, which is directly in the heart of the Wyrdwood. Here, Ivy learns of her own magical power as well as discovering more about her family; much more about her father's mysterious, magic-related malady; and diabolical plots taking place in Altania's government involving an underground web of robbers, revolutionaries, illusionists, and spies.

The House on Durrow Street, Book 2, continues with Ivy entering high society based on her and her new husband's decision to act courageously to save Altania from those scheming to subvert it. Temptations and secrets infused with high magick amongst genteel society created a whirlwind of adventure and suspense that carried into the concluding volume, The Master of Heathcrest Hall, Book 3. To save her father, her family, and the world she loves from certain eternal darkness, Ivy allies with those that could be dangerous to mingle with and even speak of in whispers as the unrest claiming Altania's every corner spreads.

Each of the characters that make up this lush landscape is finely depicted and spellbinding, drawing intrigue and sympathy. Their courage and spirit were compelling. Even when I questioned the intentions of some of them, I couldn't help understanding the depth of their emotions and conflicts. I even loved how the author made me root for the romantic attachments which seemed utterly impossible at so many turns.

One aspect of fantasy novels that tends to be what I consider its greatest downfall and the thing that usually keeps me from reading more of them is the sluggish pace that strikes me as being at odds when juggled with the extreme bouts of action--as in, there is almost no middle ground between these two states of being. I will note that I'm not a huge fan of action-packed sagas that lack "downtimes", since that makes them both unrealistic and exhausting to me. As a general rule, most of the fantasy novels I've read are authored by writers with undeniable skill. Mark Anthony is one such author. His writing style is nearly flawless. In fact, it's part of the reason why, after only having gotten a few chapters into The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, I bought the next two books in the series as well as all the books in his The Last Rune Series. I read The Mrs. Quent Trilogy compulsively over the course of only a week or two, finishing them very quickly despite that each one is massive (the hardcovers I purchased were all in great excess of 500 pages). I was endeared to The Mrs. Quent Trilogy despite that it was a leisurely, sprawling story that took its time building momentum and suspense from one book to the next. Every page of the three books held my unwavering engrossment. It struck just the right balance with riveting characters, plot, and tension despite being such enormous volumes which might have otherwise been intimidating. I believe a lot of readers will love all of Mark Anthony's literary offerings and should try them. It was, however, his alter ego Galen Beckett's writings that ultimately captured my attention. This particular series makes me eagerly look forward to the prospect of future similar gifts from this alternate identity.

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

Visit her website here:


Find out more about her books and see her art here:

Visit her publisher here:

No comments:

Post a Comment