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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"The Magician and the Fool" by Barth Anderson

Official Barth Anderson Website
Order “The Magician and the Fool
Read An Excerpt HERE

After starting out with short fiction which included attending the Clarion SF & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in 1998; publishing numerous stories in Asimov's, Strange Horizons, Flytrap and many other print/online venues; and winning the 2004 Spectrum Award for his short story “Lark Till Dawn, Princess”, writer Barth Anderson made his long-form debut in 2006 with “The Patron Saint of Plagues”, a critically-acclaimed futuristic bio-thriller. Now in his second novel which has been ten years in the making, Barth draws on his considerable experience as a tarot card reader—three decades worth—in crafting “The Magician and the Fool”, a fascinating contemporary tale of identity, love, redemption, and a thought-provoking mystery based on the origins of Tarot and the founding of Rome…

I’m not very well-versed in the art of tarot reading or its history, so I can’t say how much of “The Magician and the Fool” is actually based on fact or just drawn from Barth’s imagination, but either way the concept is quite intriguing. Ancient cults, blood sacrifices, the Etruscan Discipline, tyros, Lemures, authenticators, and the very first deck of cards, all centered on the legend of Romulus & Remus and their true story is the intricate web in which the book’s two protagonists find themselves caught in. One is Jeremiah Rosemont, a gay ex-art historian whose attempt at carving a new life leads him to Nicaragua before a mysterious message lures him to Rome and the secrets that await there. The other is the Boy King, a ‘dumpster diver’ slumming in a Minnesota warehouse whose anonymity runs out with the appearance of an archaic sigil and the evil it heralds. Together, the two narratives invite the reader on a mesmerizing journey that explores the otherworldly abilities they possess, the pasts that they are fleeing, and how Rosemont and the Boy King are connected, but let me warn you that the journey is not an easy one. Despite beautifully elegant prose, wonderfully drawn characters & dialogue, and pacing that causes the pages to fly by, “The Magician and the Fool” is a challenging book that demands the reader’s full attention. In other words, Barth Anderson’s novel is not about cheap thrills, clear-cut answers and fairy tale endings. Instead, “The Magician and the Fool” is about ambiguity and subtext, and if you blink you’re bound to miss something important. So my best advice to anyone willing to undertake this journey is to take it slow, savor the experience, keep your mind open and watch for clues that are hidden everywhere. And once you’re done, read “The Magician and the Fool” again because I’m pretty confident that the second time will be even more rewarding :)

As far as the supernatural elements which includes divination, yoking—a form of compulsion or mind control, ghosts, templums—“a safe piece of territory from which to view the other world or work the greater work”, and centuries old characters, I would normally be inclined to describe “The Magician and the Fool” as fantasy, but in reality the book has much more of a science fiction feel, especially when things get metaphysical in the novel’s latter stages. Of course “The Magician and the Fool” could also be categorized as a mystery, historical fiction or even a literary novel so it’s not about labels. What matters is how the novel opened up my imagination, fed my curiosity and challenged my perception of the unknown. Bottom line, Barth Anderson’sThe Magician and the Fool” is the kind of book that wins awards, is taught in college courses, and will be one of the best releases of the year…


Tia Nevitt said...

Wow; great cover!

Robert said...

Indeed it is :) The story is even better!

Anonymous said...

I've just got the book yesterday from the library and unfortunately it was not for me. Interesting, no question about it, but the style just did not work out for me. It reminded me of One King, One Soldier by A. Irvine, another similar, short book - though with the Grail not Tarot - that I found interesting but did not really enjoy due to style.


daydream said...

I love the cover art and it seems liek a sophisticated book. I think I will be reading it some day. Good thing I have years on my side.

Dark Wolf said...

I think I will add this book to my shopping list.

Robert said...

Liviu, it's definitely not for everyone. Stylistically, I was reminded a bit of M. John Harrison, but since I haven't read very much of the author, I didn't want to use him as a comparison...

Harry, Mihai, I would love your takes if you get a chance to read the book :)

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