Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: The Magician

So I plowed through The Magician just as fast as I plowed through The Alchemist and what else can I say that I didn’t already say about the first book? Does he still create interesting portraits of historical people and mythological legends? Yes. Does he still paint incredible pictures of places we thought we knew? Absolutely. Does it still drag a bit when the narrative is focused solely on the twins the stories are revolved around? Yes, unfortunately. Is it still an interesting and fun ride? Definitely.

Oh, what’s that? You could use with a few more details, you say? That didn’t really tell you anything, you say?

Well, the first thing you need to know is that he took the book international. The first book was focused mainly in San Francisco and California as a whole, with a foray into a forested shadow realm which existed on another plain of existence entirely. In this book, most of the characters have been whisked away to Paris, where they encounter new friends and new foes. Three more characters from the history books are re-imagined as centuries-old immortals, from The Joan of Arc, and Comtesse du St. Germain (who is now a DJ rock idol going by Germain who has a CD coming out, HA!) to Niccolo Machievelli, who is just as big a villain as Dr. John Dee, but written and staged as possibly more dangerous and cunning than Dr. John Dee could ever become.

The places captured in the book are just as interesting and used in imaginative ways. The Eiffel tower becomes the center of an impromptu fireworks show, the streets of Paris are overcome by a rampaging beast, the catacombs underneath Paris are a lair for a very important elder. Magical showdowns take place in very important city landmarks, showcasing the author’s sense of place and how it can impact a story as much as the characters do.

But there was actually a second story line taking place halfway across the world, back in the San Francisco bay, in Alcatraz which also used the author’s sense of place to great effect, as well as continuing to elaborate on the mythological creatures we thought we knew (Sphinxes, Vampires, Crows, and Spiders Oh My!).

And again it’s obvious that the characters around whom the story is centered, the twins, are the least of the story. Yes they are important, and their characters are being developed in unique ways, but they still aren’t the draw for me. I don’t know if it is the unnecessary angst, or the redundancy the author feels he needs to build into their narrative when telling their story, but I’m less interested in them, especially when it’s just the two of them. They work better as ciphers for everyone else to tell their stories.

It’s paced well and it leaves you wanting more, which means I’ll be downloading and ripping through the third book ASAP. B+

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