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The Master of Heathcrest Hall (The Magicians and Mrs. Quent) [Kindle Edition]

Galen Beckett
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Even as her husband is about to attain undreamed-of power, Ivy Quent fears for her family’s safety. With war looming and turmoil sweeping the nation of Altania, Ivy finds the long-abandoned manor on the moors a temporary haven. But nowhere is really safe from the treachery that threatens all the Quents have risked to achieve. And an even greater peril is stirring deep within the countryside’s beautiful green estates. As Ivy dares an alliance with a brilliant illusionist and a dangerous lord, she races to master her forbidden talents and unravel the terrible truth at the heart of her land’s unrest—even as a triumphant, inhuman darkness rises to claim Altania eternally for its own.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


Praise for Galen Beckett’s acclaimed series:
“A charming and accomplished debut, sure to delight fantasy aficionados and lovers of gothic romances alike.”—Jacqueline Carey, author of Naamah’s Curse, on The Magicians and Mrs. Quent
“A novel of manners, wit, great characters and immersion in a world that is lovingly described . . . one of those novels that stay with you for a long time.”—Fantasy Book Critic, on The House on Durrow Street

“A splendid fantasy that is both magical and very proper.”—SFRevu, on The House on Durrow Street.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


The people huddled in the cave as the wind shook the branches of the trees outside.

The cave was damp and musty from disuse, for it had been a long while since they had last journeyed to it. In years past, they would dwell here during the darkest winter months, when the thick stone offered protection from the winds that swept out of the north—­and from the wolves that prowled the frozen land, their fur ragged, desperate enough to brave fire and arrow in search of something to fill their shrunken bellies.

For most of the year, the people lived five days’ walk to the south of this place, in a camp by the blue sea. There they would spend the long days as they had for time out of mind, prying mussels from the rocks and spearing fish and cormorants, until they became as sleek as the otters that basked on the shore in the sun.

At least, that was how things used to be. Layka still remembered what it had been like when she was smaller. She would spend the warm evenings walking along the beach, clad only in a supple doeskin, choosing shells that might be strung on a piece of leather—­saving them for the day when she was old enough to begin making herself beautiful for the young men who visited on occasion from the other camps down the shore.

But that was before everything changed.

It began one day with a violent shuddering of the ground. An awful groaning noise filled the air, and the sea pulled away from the shore. All knew this was a sign to flee to a higher place, but even as they did so a sudden night fell over the world. It was as if a fist had closed around the burning ember of the sun, snuffing it out. The people looked up and, for the first time, saw an unfamiliar red spark smoldering among the stars. What this new object in the night sky was, no one knew—­not even Nesharu, who of all the people was the oldest and wisest.

At last the trembling of the ground ceased, and the ocean roared back upon the beach. Dawn came, and the day seemed to pass as usual. But when it ended, the red spark again shone in the sky, a little brighter than before. The night that followed lasted too long. The world grew cold, and though it was yet early summer, stars that should only have risen in autumn spun into the sky. By morning, when Layka walked along the shore, she found it rimed with frost. She shivered despite the aurochs hide she had thrown over her shoulders, and had to use her nails to pry up shells from the sand.

After that, the days no longer continued their gradual and steady lengthening toward midsummer. Instead, one night might flit by, swift as a bat, followed by a day during which the sun seemed to hang motionless overhead, blazing so fiercely that the otters were forced to slip into the sea to escape its heat. Then, without warning, the heat would give way to bitter cold after the sun failed to show itself for what felt like days.

A fear came over the people. Plants wilted and shriveled in alternation. Animals grew torpid and confused, wandering across the land as if they did not know which direction to go. Many dead fish washed up on the shore, carried by currents that had gone too hot or cold to sustain them. Sometimes other things washed up on the beach as well: gelatinous remnants of unknown creatures that smelled so foul even the dogs would not touch them. And all the while the red spark grew larger in the sky, glaring like the eye of some angry beast.

That had been three years ago. Or at least so they guessed, for they could no longer count the years by the passage of the seasons. Winter no longer gave way to spring; bright summer never dulled to autumn. Instead, the sequence of days was as patternless as a handful of fish bones thrown on the midden heap. Yet it must have been three years since everything changed, or close to it, for Layka had been just past her thirteenth winter then, and now she was nearly a woman.

Not that it mattered. Young men never came from the other camps anymore. Nobody did, not since the red eye had shown itself. The pretty shells Layka had gathered remained unstrung, piled in a corner of the hut she shared with her parents and her brother. Anyway, there was no time to think about making herself beautiful. It was all she and the others could do to survive. Those first months had been especially awful. Game perished. Springs and rivulets went dry, and the sea grew barren of fish. The people froze and sweltered in alternation, and many succumbed to hunger or fever.

That any of them managed to live was due to Nesharu. For hours she would stand watching the sky, observing the movements of birds or listening to the wind. Then she would tell the people where to look for water or animals to hunt. At first they found little to sustain them. Yet over time some plants began to sprout again, spindly but green. A few animals returned, as did the fish in the sea. And though these were not nearly so plentiful as before, they were enough. The days and nights came and went, sometimes short, sometimes long. For three years the people struggled and endured.

Then a young man came to the camp.

It was one of those endless afternoons when the sunlight went flat and turned everything to white. The people looked up to see a hunter they did not know just beyond the huts. At once the men rushed toward him, spears at the ready, but it was soon obvious that he posed no threat. He was thin, his beard crusted with salt, and despite the heat of the day he was shivering. The people gathered around him and saw that the man bore deep gashes on his arm and side. The flesh around the wounds had turned the color of ash and gave off a rank odor.

The hunter fell to the ground and started to mutter, but it was difficult to understand him. By the ochre that stained the hides he wore, he came from one of the camps around the great curve in the shoreline many days’ walk to the south, and the language spoken there was not entirely like that of the people. However, they gave him water, and after a time Nesharu made out some of his speech.

They came during a long night, the hunter told them. Shadows that stalked, shadows with pointed teeth. They ate men from the inside out and put on their skins, so you could not tell what they were. Then, when darkness fell, they cast off the skins to feed, and no arrow could pierce them.

The people were frightened by these words. Layka looked at his wounds, counting the parallel lines in his flesh, and wondered what kind of animal had seven talons upon each of its paws.

“If an arrow will not pierce them, how can these shadows be hunted?” Nesharu asked as she knelt beside the man, a listless wind stirring her hair like the white tendrils of an anemone in the shallows.

“Take their heads,” the hunter croaked through cracked lips. “While they still wear a man’s skin, take their heads.”

Nesharu sat with the hunter for many more hours, her weathered face grim as she leaned close, trying to make out more of the man’s words. But the hunter’s voice grew fainter, until his lips moved without making any sound, and his eyes stared blindly. Then, as the sun at last dipped below the edge of the sea, his spirit left him.

The people gathered wood, and upon Nesharu’s direction they burned the body far away from the huts as the red eye looked down from above. It was a circle nearly as large as the moon now, its light staining the ground like blood after a hunt.

That night was short, but by the time a swift dawn swept across the land, three men were already heading out from the camp. They were the fastest runners among the people. Since the red eye appeared in the sky, no one had gone more than a long day’s walk away from the camp. Now the men intended to go all the way around the great bend of the shore, to the southern camps, to see if they could learn more about the things the hunter had spoken of—­and what danger they might pose to the people. The runners quickly became small specks on the horizon, then were lost from view.

For five alternations of light and dark, the people waited. Then, just as the sun heaved into the sky at the start of the sixth day, a single runner stumbled into the camp. It was Layka’s brother, Tennek.

“You are a good runner,” Nesharu said as the people gathered around Tennek, “but it is still much too soon for you to have gone all the way past the great bend and back. And where are the others?”

Tennek shook his head, unable to speak. His breaths came rapidly, and his eyes were wide, as if one of the long-­fanged cats pursued him. Layka came forward bearing a shell filled with water and gave it to her elder brother. He drank it, and at last his breathing eased so that he could speak.

The others gathered close. Despite the rising sun, a coldness crept over them as Tennek described how, on the second day out, the runners came to a camp along the shore just where it began to bend to the east.

Who dwelled there, they did not know, for the small lodges made of sticks and mud were all empty. There was wood in the fire pits and a rack of drying fish, as well as a large chunk of flint set out on a flat stone, ready to be struck and knapped into points. It looked as if the people who had made this camp planned to return at any moment.

By then a sudden twilight was descending, and as there was no other shelter, the three runners retreated into one of the empty lodges. They took turns keeping watch, only at some point during the night Tennek and Haleth both woke to discover that Davu was gone. They called out to him from the entrance of the lodge, but there was no answer. When dawn broke, they went out to look for him.

They spent the whole day searching, but there was no sign of Davu in the camp or anywhere around it. Still they kept looking until night fell, when again they had no choice but to retreat into one of the lodges in the camp. This time, neither of th...

Product Details

  • File Size: 4998 KB
  • Print Length: 738 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0553807609
  • Publisher: Spectra (March 27, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,496 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Final Volume Worth the Read March 27, 2012
After a brief interlude in the distant past - which has a bearing later on in the story - MASTER OF HEATHCREST HALL opens following the events of the previous book, THE HOUSE ON DURROW STREET.

The old king is dead, and his daughter not yet crowned. Political machinations vie with those magickal and delay her coronation. The new Lord Rafferdy has joined another magical society, this one bent on preserving the Wyrdwood from those who would destroy it, leaving Altania to be devoured by its otherworldly foes, the Ashen.

Lady Quent is at home, rejoicing upon the success of her husband and her own efforts in the Evengrove. Unfortunately, she receives a disappointment soon thereafter, which turns out to be a harbinger of what is to come. She will soon discover that bedrock is in fact clay, and those high in the Altania's government are not to be trusted with the country's best interests.

Eldyn Garrit, illusionist at the Theatre of the Moon, pines for his lover Dercy. But he soon learns the art of impressions, and has a say in the coming strife between the rebels of Huntley Morden and the government. Without his efforts, everything Lord Rafferdy and Lady Quent worked so hard to gain would be lost.

This is a masterful final volume in the series. At once mannered and full of excitement, it brings the story to a close, neatly tying all of the loose threads together. Many things are explained, and both sadness and joy abound within the pages of this book. If you have read the first two books, do not wait - get this book and read it. You will be glad you did.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly Surprised! March 31, 2012
While I had quite enjoyed the first book in this series (The Magicians and Mrs. Quent), which was a rather charming mashup of novels by Jane Austen and the Bronte sister, the second one - the House on Darrow Street - dragged interminably with what seemed to be far too much emphasis on soirees and parties organized for Ivy's sisters Lily & Rose, with huge sections devoted to what I thought was a largely peripheral character (the illusionist Eldyn) and so forth. The only real momentum in that book seemed to come right at the end.

So I hadn't expected much of The Master of Heathcrest Hall (a largely misleading title by the way), but got it dutifully anyway... finding it a vast improvement on the previous volume! The action proceeded at a fair clip, the tone of the society the books were set in was maintained, the characters all had meaningful roles woven together by the end of the novel so that each played their part in saving the entire planet :-) There were some surprises, and not all the bad guys or the good guys turned out to be what we would have thought from the first 2 books in the trilogy. So... lots of fun.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book if you're following the series July 27, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My main reason for picking up this book was that I had it. After reading - and enjoying - the first book in the series, I bought the other two. But I'm glad I did read it. Everything came together for a satisfying conclusion.

What I liked about this series:
1) The world-building. Altania is a re-imagined Victorian England, but it's different and interesting. Aside from magic, the days and nights have varying and somewhat unpredictable lengths; I was willing to suspend my disbelief about how that all works, both physically and socially, because it was such a cool idea. The political setting felt real, and though the parliament scenes could have been boring, they weren't.
2) The plot line; it was an intriguing problem, and it worked. All the subplots were nicely interwoven.
3) The characters. On the whole, they were well-rounded, likeable and with great character arcs. (This was more true of the men.) I really liked the way the minor characters were handled.

What I didn't like so much:
1) The pacing. Maybe it's me, but I found books 2 and 3 slow, and book 3 repeating stuff a great deal - almost as though it was written to be serialized by chapter. I found myself skimming a lot
2) The women's character arcs seemed to be either step-function changes (like Sashie or Lily), or static or negative shifts - like Rose who in Book 3 sometimes seemed to be "simple" in the old sense of the word (though in earlier books she'd seemed okay), Lady Marsdel, and unfortunately, Ivy herself, who became less interesting rather than more as the series progressed. Perhaps because by Book 2, she's just stumbling along in directions set by others.

That said, Book 3 is a lot better than Book 2. It's better paced, there's more happening, and less extraneous material. It explains everything that's gone before. If you've read Book 2, you owe yourself Book 3.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying conclusion to the series July 25, 2012
I've greatly enjoyed Galen Beckett's Mrs. Quent trilogy, of which The Master of Heathcrest Hall is the final volume. At the start of the series it felt like a Jane Austen era romance with magic added in, but by the end it is clear that it is the reverse: it is epic fantasy, but clothed in the style and manners of a regency novel. It's a delightful departure from a typical sword and sorcery tale, but lacking none of the magic and adventure.

Heathcrest Hall brings back all of the usual cast: Ivoleyn Quent, mistress of the Wyrdwood, the dashing magician, Mr. Rafferdy, and the illusionist Eldyn Garritt, as well as a host of quirky and entertaining secondary characters. Myriad plotlines are woven together as we discover the true nature of these different magic users (witches, magicians, and illusionists), and they all must employ their talents to combat the invading Ashen that threaten to destroy their world.

Beckett's story never failed to entertain me, but it did frustrate me in some places. As with the previous books, I found the ending to be slightly underwhelming. Grand, exciting events are happening, yet often they are skipped over and described only briefly and in retrospect. Discoveries that should be big revelations (such as the identity of the man in black, a mystery since early in the first book) are ho hum--merely interesting facts rather that eye opening moments that force you to reconsider everything that came before. Many of the mysteries and riddles that drive the plot have the flimsiest of justifications, and I can't help but think that if a few characters had just been a little more open and direct that everything would have been cleared up in no time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Magic
Enjoyed the trilogy "the Magicians and Mrs. Quentin."
Fast pace, villains, quiet heroes . An intelligent woman
discovering her past and rising to the challenge. Read more
Published 6 months ago by O.J.
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid finish to a solid trilogy
Galen Beckett concludes his three-book series set in an alternate Victorian England with “The Master of Heathcrest Hall” (Bantam Spectra, $19, 718 pages), and it’s a worthy ending... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Clay Kallam
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written.
First off Galen Beckett as a pseudonym…. And Eldyn and all the illusionists are gay. I am trying to figure out whether the author thought of himself as Dercy or Eldyn…. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mozart Brain
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master of Heathcrest Hall by Galen Beckett
A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to Beckett's trilogy! Filled with twists and turns that all made sense, this one, as with the previous two, kept me anxiously turning pages until... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Susan M. Botich
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprise enjoyment
This series was found at a library special pick section. Old though it is the mystery was enjoyable on several levels. Would follow the author if possible.
Published 23 months ago by Not your usual
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful conclusion
A rich and varied world comes to a satisfying close as the long umbral covers Altania. Worth more than a few reads to enjoy all the details and savor the richly deserved character... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes awhile to get started, but pretty good after it does.
The story is a little slow starting out, and you kind of have to wonder where it's going , but once it gets going it is a pretty good book.
Published on March 4, 2013 by K. White
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulouse writer
I was so excited to get this book! Amazing author, very good read. I will be looking forward to more books by Beckett.
Published on February 19, 2013 by amanda84
1.0 out of 5 stars Not my style
I did not read "The Master of Heathcrest Hall". After I bought it, I re-read the cover blurbs and realized it was full of fantasy and spooks. I don't waste time on that nonsense. Read more
Published on January 7, 2013 by Nancy Talbot Doty
5.0 out of 5 stars It's exactly what my wife wanted.
Here is my wife to tell you what she thinks!

Very well written book. It's the 3rd in a trilogy so you have to read the first 2 to understand what is really happening. Read more
Published on January 5, 2013 by Jason A. Devlin
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