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Stella Matutina
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The Master of Heathcrest Hall by Galen Beckett 
22nd-Jan-2013 07:00 am
Cover art for The Master of Heathcrest Hall, featuring a blonde white woman in a white Empire-waisted gown perched on a window seat, a scroll in hand. She"s looking out the window at a daytime forest alight with tones of green, orange and yellow.Title: THE MASTER OF HEATHCREST HALL
Author: Galen Beckett
Series: this is the third and final novel about Ivy Lockwell
Publisher: Spectra
Publication Date: March 2012
Pages: 718
Status: keeper

LibraryThing Info

The Master of Heathcrest Hall for purchase at The Book Depository

The Master of Heathcrest Hall for purchase at Kobo

THE MASTER OF HEATHCREST HALL was my most anticipated book of 20121, and I had grand plans for it. I intended to begin last April with a reread of the two books that precede it (THE MAGICIANS AND MRS QUENT and THE HOUSE ON DURROW STREET), after which I would dive straight into this one, giving myself at least a week of wonderful, wallowsome reading.

Alas, my plan went awry. Early April saw me wrestling with such intense concentration issues that I failed to enjoy the first two books as I should have done. I limped through them at a pace of no more than fifty pages a day--and y’all, I’m all but incapable of loving something I read that slowly, no matter how much I’ve adored it in the past2.

So I shelved THE MASTER OF HEATHCREST HALL and determined to wait until my reading speed was back up to snuff and my mood had evened out some.

It took a while, but early this month I finally felt like yeah, okay, I could give it a shot. Given the trouble I’d had with the first two books, though, I figured it was probably best if I tackled THE MASTER OF HEATHCREST HALL via my handy-handy 100-pages-in-between-other-books method. I stuck an assortment of bookmarks in at hundred pages intervals and got down to it.

This didn’t work out. I managed to pause long enough to read STEALING PARKER after the first hundred pages, but I couldn't have torn myself away after that. Most times, I read two hundred pages per sitting. I made bargains with myself; I’d turn my light out after another thirty pages. Or maybe sixty. Certainly, no more than sixty.

You get the picture, yeah?

In essence, I loved THE MASTER OF HEATHCREST HALL for the same reason I loved THE MAGICIANS AND MRS QUENT and THE HOUSE ON DURROW STREET; or, for that matter, the same reason I love almost everything I love. I adored the characters. I felt for them, I bled with them, and I couldn't help but turn their struggles into my own. My feelings ran so deep that I didn't read the book so much as live it.

I could say more than that, I suppose. There's plenty I could tell you about the setting, or the book’s wonderfully Regency feel, or the way Beckett slowly turns things around so that the first volume’s villains appear in a somewhat different light here. If you want the truth, though, I don’t fancy it. 5 stars is my "I loved it to the point of incoherence" rating because I don't much care to analyze anything I love with this intensity3. I want to bask in my love for it. I want to ramble about it just long enough that y’all can tell how I feel about it, then leave it at that.

I must say, though, that one aspect of the worldbuilding tripped me up. It wasn’t enough to destroy the book in my eyes, but it certainly led to some inconclusive thoughts about loving problematic books.

THE MASTER OF HEATHCREST HALL, like THE HOUSE ON DURROW STREET before it, is an overtly queer book. Eldyn, one of the three protagonists, is gay. He also has a form of magic that allows him to shape light into illusions. In this book, we learn that all the men who possess this ability--and it’s exclusively a male talent--are gay.

This bothers me as much as if someone were to suggest that everyone with a particular talent must be hetero. Does it mean, then, that this world has no gay men who aren’t illusionists? Are some of the illusionists perhaps hetero but celibate (or particularly quiet about their activities because they're not what's expected of them)? And what about lesbians? Where do the lesbians fit in?

It also ties into the series-wide issue of there being different sorts of magic for men who’re descended from particular families (magicians), women who’re descended from particular families (witches), and men who’re sons of witches (illusionists). There’s too much gender essentialism for me to be truly comfortable with it; so much, in fact, that I feel bad for loving these books as much as I do.

But I do love them, make no mistake. The characters are so wonderful that I’m able to file the problematic elements under "important and worthy of consideration, but not enjoyment-destroying." This may change in the future, but for now I adore this whole series and will continue to recommend it to anyone who'll listen. Discussions with other readers have shown me that it's not for everyone, but those who love it love it a lot.

5 stars – loved it to the point of incoherence and/or verbosity

Other Reviews:

Fyrefly's Book Blog
Gripping Books

Did I miss yours? Please let me know so I can add it to my list.

Back In the Day:

  1. Okay, it was tied with THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES by Scott Lynch, but let’s not nitpick here.

  2. I keep meaning to write something about the whole "it’s impossible to truly love something if you read it quickly; slow, deliberate sips are best, so one will read fewer books overall" mentality and how it's so, so far from the way I operate, but I haven’t managed to squeeze it out yet. My few attempts have always struck me as too judgemental, which I want to avoid. Y’all gotta do what’s best for you. If you like to sip your books, go right ahead. Me, I’m gonna keep on gulping.

  3. Not after the first reading, at least. Nitpicks and deep insights are for readings two through eight.
Historical Fiction
23rd-Jan-2013 01:45 am (UTC)
Aiesh. I don't know about the gender essentialism...

I've noticed that reading a book slowly tends to equal picking it apart in a way I normally wouldn't. I have loved books I read very slowly, but they have to be really really good.
12th-Feb-2013 10:36 pm (UTC)
I find that I lose the thread if I read slowly. I stop looking for reasons to care and start nitpicking.
23rd-Jan-2013 05:41 am (UTC)
Oh, I had book two out of the library and ran into time problems reading it over Christmas and sent it back. I have to get it again, your review is prodding me. I liked what I read, and you know I loved the first one....though did I do a review? I will have to check - but yes, I did really thoroughly enjoy it. though, the discovery she was a witch at the end kind of took some of the pleasure away. I didn't want her to be one - not because I have anything against witches, I don't, but because it seemed to neat in the story, and she is suddenly not who she is supposed to be,so her sisters aren't her sisters....yet I enjoyed the story so much, and the characters, and the world building, that I do want to know more.

Really good review, and I'm happy to see Bk 3 is as good as Bk 1. And that you have some reading mojo back!

Susan - You Can Never Have Too Many Books
12th-Feb-2013 10:37 pm (UTC)
I hope you'll love this one (and THE HOUSE ON DURROW STREET) as much as I did!
24th-Jan-2013 12:02 am (UTC)
Oh man. I gulp. Tiny sips are not for me. Gulping is the best, and I feel like I read a study that says you retain more and enjoy books more if you read them in as close to one sitting as possible.
12th-Feb-2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
I hadn't heard of this study before, but I will now cite it to all and sundry.
24th-Jan-2013 04:08 am (UTC)
I'm skipping most of this review because I still plan to read this. Really enjoyed the first one, and I want to read the next two...soon! You make me want to move it farther up in my line of books.
12th-Feb-2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
You totally should! I have such love for these characters and their world.
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