Fast Forward Book Review for May 2012
The Master of Heathcrest Hall
by Colleen R. Cahill
There are trends in literature, even genre literature, and right now mixing Jane Austin-like style in a fantasy is very hot. As with anything, some attempts are better than others, and Galen Beckett’s fantasy trilogy that began with The Magicians and Mrs. Quent from Ballantine Books is one of the top drawer works. The final book, The Master of Heathcrest Hall, is now available and it has all the fascinating magic and manners of the first two works, with some surprises that lead to a truly riveting ending.
Things are not going well in the nation of Altania, with rebellion and a rising fear of witches, the Wyrdwood and magic in general. Lord Rafferdy is engaged in his own war, fighting against a sinister and subtle attack by the Magisters, who are attempting to take complete control of the government. This is primarily a battle of words and wits in the Assembly, but he is also taking on other challenges, as Rafferdy is a key player in an illegal organization of magicians known as the Fellowship of the Silver Circle. In both cases, the young Lord is risking much in the name of justice and freedom.
This is also certainly a time of change, although not all of it is bad: Eldyn Garritt has broadened his use of his illusion powers by learning how to create impressions. These are images of a scene and have much in common with photographs, except they are made with magic. Eldyn finds he has quite a gift for this and it brings him a new source of income, as broadsheets are happy to purchase his impressions of events and important people. Unfortunately, this also makes him an enemy when Eldyn does not return the advances of the man who taught him the skill, an enemy who is out for revenge.
Lady Ivy Quent experiences the greatest tragedy. The miscarriage of her first child is being made sadder by the constant absence of her husband, who is trying to prevent more damage to the Wyrdwood by the Gray Conclave. Her mood is not helped by the increasing chaos around her. In the city, rationing to support the Royal Army has led to fewer social gatherings and greater poverty, while the wild variations in day and night, none of which the magicians can explain, are equally disturbing. The world is reacting to the approach of a rogue red planet and Ivy fears it will bring more problems than just losing some sleep.
Beckett has brought closure to many unanswered questions from the first two books. It is satisfying to discover the whys and hows of the Wyrdwood and to learn more about how magic works in this world. Some of the biggest surprises come from the fates of the supporting characters and I was particularly intrigued by the choices Ivy’s youngest sister Lily makes. You will need to read the earlier books to fully understand and appreciate the volume; no hardship as this is a compelling fantasy series. I highly recommend The Master of Heathcrest Hall and all the books in this series, not just for their absorbing story, but also for delivering a gratifying ending.