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Galen Beckett – The House on Durrow Street

April 15, 2011

49. The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett (2010)
Ivy Lockwell, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent

Length: 690 pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Fantasy-of-manners

Started: 27 March 2011
Finished: 07 April 2011

Where did it come from? Purchased from Amazon.
Why do I have it? I was enchanted by the first book, and definitely wanted to keep reading.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 10 October 2010.

Magicians, witches,
and illusionists must all
help to save the world.

Summary: Ivy Quent, after discovering her own powers and driving off the magicians that were attempting to use her father’s magical instruments for their own dark purposes, wants nothing more to settle down with her husband, restore her father’s old house, and live a quiet life. Mr. Rafferdy wants a life of indolence and society, but is forced to participate in the government of Altania due to his father’s illness, and becomes increasingly involved in magical studies of his own. Eldyn Garritt isn’t sure what he wants: he’s been drawn to the priesthood since he was a boy, and yet he finds himself increasingly drawn to the sinful realm of the theater… and to one young illusionist in particular. But none of them are seeking their desires in a vacuum; things are changing in Altania – the red planet has appeared in the sky, the almanacs can no longer predict the lengths of the ever-varying days and nights, and political unrest is growing throughout the country, particularly in places with stands of the ancient Wyrdwood – and these three young people will each have their parts to play in the coming turbulence, if they are to keep Altania from plunging into chaos and never-ending night.

Review: The House on Durrow Street was one of those strange cases where it’s a really long book that never felt like it was dragging, but in which, in retrospect, not that much actually happened until the very end. That’s not to say that this book was boring – far from it – but it’s definitely character- rather than plot-driven, which makes summarizing the main story points somewhat difficult. The saving grace (and big attraction) of this book is how wonderful those characters are. Ivy, Eldyn, and Rafferdy are all so thoroughly charming that even their quotidian struggles become of vast importance, and worth reading about even when they don’t directly advance the plot per se. In particular, while I was less interested in Eldyn’s storyline in the first book, in this book I completely fell for him, and was cheering him on almost from his first chapter. Ivy, on the other hand… I still love her, but is it just me, or is she getting dumber? Ivy’s smarts were her best feature, and while she’s still quite clever, her intelligence did seem to desert her at some particularly crucial moments.

One of my issues with The Magicians and Mrs. Quent was that it felt like it just had too much crammed in there, and that it didn’t all tie together as well as it should (Eldyn’s storyline in particular seemed mostly unconnected to the rest of the storyline.) The House on Durrow Street does a better job with this, I think; while the three individual storylines actually overlap less than they did in the first book, they all tie together much more cohesively by the end. The plot did have some points that were fairly predictable (for me; see above for my comments about how predictable Ivy found them), but it also managed to throw in a fair number of surprises. And there was just the right mix of giving enough clues to figure out what’s really going on in Altania, while still retaining enough of the mystery that I’m now itching for the third book to be published! 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: The House on Durrow Street is not at all a stand-alone; it relies very heavily on the events of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent. I’d definitely recommend the series to fans of historical/regency fantasy who are looking for a book that’s more complex in its worldbuilding and characterizations than the more typical “using magic to snare a wealthy husband” variety.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Fantasy Book Critic, Libri Touches, Stella Matutina
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Ivy woke to the sound of voices.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 12: ““I’ll tell Lawden to put the calash top down on the carriage so we’ll look extra fashionable.”” – a light vehicle pulled by one or two horses, seating two to four passengers, and having two or four wheels, a seat for a driver on a splashboard, and sometimes a folding top.
    .
  • p. 29: “Up in the clerestory of the cathedral, he saw the tall silhouette of a priest before a stained-glass window, his hooded head bowed as if in prayer.” – a row of windows in the upper part of the wall of a church that divides the nave from the aisle, set above the aisle roof
    .
  • p. 154: ““His arm grieves him terribly still. He wrenched it, you remember, when we were moving the reredos that stands behind the altar in order to clean there.”” – a screen or a decorated part of the wall behind an altar in a church.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2011 5:30 pm

    I really need to read the first book. I started it, but didn’t get very excited it seems… Likely a mood, so need to wait for another time, I guess.

    • April 18, 2011 11:50 am

      Kailana – Yeah, neither of these books were really the “reach out and grab me” sort, but if you’re in the mood to lose yourself in the world that Beckett creates, then it might be worth another try.

  2. April 15, 2011 8:49 pm

    I can’t wait for the third book! It’s officially my most anticipated release of, well, whatever year in which it appears.

    • April 18, 2011 11:50 am

      Memory – Any idea on what year that will be? I’m obviously hoping for sooner rather than later but I haven’t been able to find much information about it.

  3. April 15, 2011 9:36 pm

    Hm. I didn’t enjoy The Magicians and Mrs. Quent enough to make plans about reading the sequel, but perhaps I judged hastily. My biggest problem with TMaMQ was the lack of connection between the storylines. If that gets better the situation could improve in general.

    • April 18, 2011 12:21 pm

      Jenny – The storylines don’t overlap quite as much in THoDS, in the sense that the characters don’t show up in each other’s POV chapters very often, even compared to TMaMQ. But I do think the three storylines tie into a cohesive central story in this one more clearly than they do in the first book.

  4. April 28, 2011 10:01 pm

    The Magicians and Mrs. Quent drove me crazy <a when I read it; it seemed a patchwork of 19th century styles all thrown together with little thought.

    But… I still kept really wanting to like it. Does this one cohere more? Also, does Beckett ever get around to explaining how it is that this place has such bizarre day/night patterns?

    • April 29, 2011 8:19 am

      Bookwyrme – I think this one does cohere more – it doesn’t have the pastiche of styles, from Austen to Bronte to Trollope and back again, for one thing – and I thought it did flow a little more smoothly.

      As for the day/night cycles, it’s not explained (yet), but there are definitely some more hints. The patterns are changing, the almanacs are wrong, and it’s clear that it’s going to become very important.

      • April 30, 2011 12:35 am

        I may give it a try, then. The melange of styles bugged me & the day/night cycles seemed like something the author thought was cool without having thought it through. If he has, then, it might be worth giving it a go.

  5. May 6, 2011 6:24 pm

    I’d forgotten the sequel was out! I have to read it, even if the mishmash of Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice drove me insane in the first book.

  6. April 13, 2013 6:33 pm

    Just finished reading this one (a bit late to the game!) and I just have to say I love what you said about how it’s a book that doesn’t drag, even though not much happens. Exactly!

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