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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"The House on Durrow Street" by Galen Beckett (Review by Liviu Suciu)

Official "Galen Beckett" Website
Order "The House on Durrow Street" HERE
Read an Excerpt from "The House on Durrow Street"
Read FBC Review of The Magicians and Mrs Quent

INTRODUCTION: Published in 2008 by an experienced author under a pseudonym, The Magicians and Mrs Quent was a book that charmed me, while the twists and turns of the story made it go beyond the mixture of "classics" the novel was clearly inspired by.

A bit surprisingly, The Magicians and Mrs Quent stayed with me much more than I expected at the time, so when an arc of The House on Durrow Street made its way to my house, I put down everything I was reading at the time. I first started rereading The Magicians and Mrs Quent since The House on Durrow Street picks up exactly where that one ends. When I finished reading it, there was no doubt this time that The House on Durrow Street will be a top fantasy of mine in a very strong 2010 in the genre, while its world made my list of Interesting SFF Universes.

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: The House on Durrow Street stands at about 685 pages and is divided into two parts and 43 numbered chapters. Most of the characters from The Magicians and Mrs Quent return in three major threads that have Ivy, Mr. Rafferdy and Eldyn and Dercy as POV's respectively.

The House on Durrow Street
is quite original, moving away completely from the classics and into pure fantasy with magic, illusions and "witchcraft" and actually a lot of them, so it belongs to the "pseudo-Earth with magic" sub-genre in the vein of the superb Sean Russell's Magic and Moontide and River into Darkness series.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: My favorite thread of the novel and I would say the most important thematically is the one that follows Ivy. She is now restoring the *House on Durrow Street* of the title, so she can live there with her husband and sisters and eventually her father. But as befits the former abode of a powerful magician and as we slowly find out, a line of magicians too, the house itself is a powerful magical locus with lots of "stuff" inside.

Ivy is now accepted at the highest levels of society - though few know her powers and even fewer her mysterious background of which one issue is still a mystery with possibly large implications - but she discovers that life at that level can be both interesting and frustrating, while friends and foes are not so easy to discern.

I also liked Mr. Rafferdy's thread since despite his "
gentleman wastrel" appearance, Rafferdy is as likable a character as Ivy. He is now in a funk for obvious reasons, though he manages to keep himself busy attending the Assembly in the place of his ailing father. Despite trying to avoid both things, he gets himself sucked back into magic and he returns to Ivy's orbit however emotionally painful that is for him - after all the pair of them: magician and witch is almost unstoppable as we clearly saw in The Magicians and Mrs Quent.

The third thread follows Eldyn and Dercy and it took lots of pages, being developed to a surprising end. This storyline is quite important for "depth reasons" since through the eyes of the two, we see the world of Altania from the
viewpoint of the less privileged. Here The House on Durrow Street goes way beyond the classics that inspired it (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre...) into social commentary. Class, "official morality", official belief system are all challenged and dissected. The conflicted Eldyn who must choose between his "beliefs" and his love for Dercy becomes one of the strongest characters of the series.

The House on Durrow Street is a novel of manners, wit, great characters and immersion in a world that is lovingly described. The intrigue and suspense build slowly, but when it is time for action, Ivy and Mr. Rafferdy do not hesitate and they turn their wits and powers once more to protect Altania from occult dangers, while Mr. Quent and the king's secret police led by Lady Shayde protect it from more mundane ones.

Dark times are announced for Altania and the world and while Ivy and Rafferdy may save the day one more time here, the next time the enemy may be just too powerful. Well, we will see that of course. Despite being a middle book in a trilogy, the novel provides a very satisfactory reading experience on its own and ends at a natural stopping point.

The House on Durrow Street (A++) is one of those novels that stay with you for a long time and I plan to reread the whole series across the years. Despite its almost 700 pages bulk, I just hated that it ended and there are few books I feel that strongly about.



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