This week’s novel is The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister.
The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her time, and her most notorious trick, sawing a man in half, draws large crowds. But one night she trades her saw for an ax. A new twist on the illusion, or a real murder? When her husband is found dead beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems horrifyingly clear. But when Virgil Holt, a cop whose life is dangling by a thread, captures the fleeing magician, she has a very different story to tell. Over the course of one night, she unfolds her unbelievable story, and he has to decide whether to turn her in or let her go. But is her story true or just illusion?
The story switches between two timelines. One, a single night in 1905, where Arden and Virgil face off over her freedom, is told from Virgil’s point-of-view. The second tracks Arden’s life from her childhood as she transforms from Ada Bates, to Vivi, and finally to the Amazing Arden. Her life story dominates, but is punctuated wonderfully by the present day story line. They intermingle perfectly to keep the story moving, the stakes fresh, and the interest up while it slowly builds to the collision of timelines.
Arden is a wonderful character. Her life has been a struggle, but she’s never stopped working to escape her circumstances. She’s courageous and ambitious, and that leads to her becoming the Amazing Arden. It’s impossible not to feel compassion for her, and to root for her throughout the novel.
“But whatever happens, I’ve been happy. I’ve been loved. I’ve amazed crowds and drunk in their applause. Not because of luck or favor or magic. Because of will. My will. I’ve been willing to do whatever it takes. That’s the closest thing I have to a secret. And now it’s yours.”
I loved the magic. The illusions, the details, the innumerable moving parts involved in the magic shows. The attention to detail while describing the illusions is fascinating and entertaining. It’s an integral part of the story, and it given appropriate attention.
The dialogue is engaging, just a bit theatrical, and thoroughly engrossing. I’ve come across quite a few historical fiction novels with a magical twist lately, and this is certainly one of my favorites. The setting and descriptions are wonderful and rich. A perfect place for the magic of this story to flourish.
4.5 out of 5. Wonderfully rich historical fiction with a fantastic magical theme.
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