The Master Of Heathcrest Hall (book 3) by Galen Beckett (book review).

July 27, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘The Master Of Heathcrest Hall’ by Galen Beckett concludes the trilogy about the island nation of Altania, which is a recognisable stand-in for England in a fantastic Regency-like fantasy world with magic and Lovecraftian undertones and the struggle of its people for a future. The Ashen, creatures from another world, threaten the existence of all mankind, even if it doesn’t know about the imminent danger.

MasterOfHeathcrestHall

After a short flashback to a much earlier time, when the Ashen first came to the world and the first magicians saved the day, the novel takes us right into the present and kicks off the storyline only a few months after the finale of ‘The House On Durrow Street’. The Grand Conjunction and, with it, the invasion of the Ashen draws nearer and nearer. The war with the rebels from Torland looms ever larger with news that their leader Huntley Morden has landed on the shores of Altania. The old king is dead and his daughter not yet crowned. Soon political maneuvers lead to almost all magickal societies being banned, apart from the High Order of the Golden Door, which now works officially with the Gray Conclave, the secret police of Altania.

All three main protagonists of ‘The Magicians And Mrs. Quent’ and ‘The House On Durrow Street’ are back. Since the events of the second book, Ivy and Lord Rafferdy know of the Ashen’s plans and that they have human helpers. Lord Rafferdy does his best to thwart their plans in Assembly and to save as much of the Wyrdwood as he can. Lucky for him, he is not alone in this endeavour but has joined another magickal society which supports him. When Huntley Morden advances on the city, Rafferdy leaves it just before it is closed up and joins the rebels. His character arc is perhaps the most compelling: From cynical, bored young nobleman who cannot resist a well-tailored suit to intelligent decision-maker and leader.

Ivy has to deal with a miscarriage and then her husband is unjustly accused of being a traitor. As if this was not enough to deal with, there still remains the small matter of the riddles her father left her, the solution to which could be Altania’s only chance to stand against the Ashen. Then there are the dreams about being someone else, which Ivy fails to understand for a long time. When an enemy from her past returns unexpectedly, Ivy has to rely on every last bit of strength she possesses.

Life as an illusionist at the Theatre of the Moon becomes Eldyn Garritt but, while still yearning for his lover, Dercy learns a new skill. Some illusionists can make impressions, truthful pictures of something they have seen, which can be printed onto paper. So he becomes a kind of photojournalist. Later on, he joins the supporters of Huntley Morden in the city and uses his talents to aid their cause.

Once again Galen Beckett aka Mark Anthony uses alternating viewpoints for a more varied reading experience and insights into all that is happening. ‘The Master Of Heathcrest Hall’ maintains all the excellent qualities which made the two previous novels so readable. The characters are captivating, the atmosphere is quite dense, the world-building is excellent and the plot moves at a faster pace than before which fits the final book of a trilogy. This time the looming war finally is coming to Altania and the text reflects that perfectly even though the reader does not actually take part in major skirmishes. Some might experience the end as a bit of a let-down because all the tension that had been skillfully built up over the book is resolved in just a few paragraphs.

All in all, ‘The Master Of Heathcrest Hall’ is a very fitting conclusion to a trilogy that does not tread the familiar path of fantasy in a pseudo-medieval setting. Questions raised in the previous books are answered, surprises abound (not everyone and everything is what they seemed) and all characters, even minor ones like Ivy’s sisters, have convincing arcs. The mysteries of Lady Shayde, Mr. Bennick, Mr. Lockwell, Cerephus, the Ashen and the man in the black mask find a satisfying explanation. The trilogy is set in a well-drawn fantasy world in a Regency-like era which will definitely delight fans of Susanna Clarke. If you like your fantasy a bit different and with a pinch of Lovecraft then you should risk an eye, too, and last but not least, Galen Beckett aka Mark Anthony has a knack for surprising endings.

Sven Scheurer

July 2015

(pub: Spectra/Random House, 2012. 718 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $16.00 (US), $19.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-80760-8)

check out websites: www.ballantinebooks.com and www.galenbeckett.com

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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