At the House of the Magician by Mary Hooper

I remember reading a synopsis for this book a while ago, and then I completely forgot the title and tried searching for it desperately (it’s not listed on John Dee’s Wikipedia page!). I was so happy to come across it again, all thanks to my previous charity shop find (Fallen Grace)! I ordered the series so that I wouldn’t forget it again.

I had the privilege of studying under one of the leading John Dee scholars when I was doing my MA. I find John Dee to be fascinating. He was on the Crown’s payroll to try to turn lead into gold, and is best known for his speaking to angels and conjuring of spirits.

magicianFirst, a synopsis from Amazon:

Lucy has been forced to run away from home as she fears for her safety from her drunken father. She is taken on as a maid at the house of Dr Dee, court magician, upon whom Elizabeth I relies heavily, even down to advising the date of her coronation. The household is strange and sinister, and Lucy has a nose for intrigue …And she has more than enough to satisfy her: Lucy stumbles across a plot to assassinate the queen and has to find means to warn her…

Well, that was short and sweet, but it pretty much sums it up. I’m sure that this was written for middle schoolers. It’s not very long at all, the storyline is simple, and it’s educational.

So, before I delve into what I think of the book, I have to explain a little more about John Dee. As I stated, John Dee became particularly consumed in the last 30 years of his life with speaking to angels and the conjuring of spirits. Dee wished to do this to find out a number of things: how the world was created, how to bring about the apocalypse – any secrets that the angels would wish to reveal. Hooper has him trying to figure out how to make an Elixir of Life to help make Elizabeth I eternally youthful.

To help him with this speaking, or scrying, Dee enlisted the help of Edward Kelley, a man whose history is now somewhat…. Questionable. It’s the opinion of many that Kelley was a charlatan and a fraud, and this is the stance the book seems to take. It appears he is only helping Dee to further his own agenda to the Queen. That wouldn’t be too out of line with Kelley, as he and Dee eventually had a falling out over some of these angelic transcriptions – Kelley told Dee that the angels would only reveal the knowledge if the men shared ALL possessions, and Dee had a brand new, very young wife.

The book’s storyline is very simple, but intriguing. Lucy leaves home and arrives in Mortlake, where she saves one of Dee’s daughters from drowning. She is offered a position in the household as a nurse for the children. She is intrigued by Dr. Dee’s work, and, through helping him, uncovers some secrets of her own, because she can’t quite explain the prophetic dreams she keeps having, or why she hears voices of individuals who are supposed to be dead…

Overall an entertaining book. Historical with a touch of the supernatural. I’m excited to read the next two!

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