The Books of Magic - Neil Gaiman et al.

Tell me ... do you believe in magic?

I first read The Books of Magic back in 2003, when I was first getting into some of Neil Gaiman's other works (most notably, the Sandman series). What I wasn't sure was whether this was a continuation of something, or a stand-alone story, or what. There were lots of characters that were familiar at least in name: John Constantine, Doctor Occult, and the Sandman himself; but mostly it seemed like its own tale, just intersecting with a few characters that others might recognize. Now that I've read more Gaiman, I realize that this is his specialty: remixing familiar stories into something new, yet with the weight of history and tradition behind it.

Young Timothy Hunter is approached by four mysterious figures (one jokingly calls it the "Trenchcoat Brigade") and asked if he believes in magic. The four believe that Tim could one day be the most powerful magician of his time; but they don't know if he'll turn out good or evil. While they don't all agree on this course of action, they decide to give Tim a choice: they'll show him the past, present, and possible future of magic, and then let him choose if he'll take the path of magic or not.

The illustrations, by John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, and Paul Johnson, mostly tend toward realism: these look like drawings based on real people, not flat-colored comic book figures. (The exception is the trip through Faerie, which I'm guessing was done by Vess, in his old-fairy-tale-book style.) I suppose it helps, when you're trying to be convincing about something like magic and the supernatural, to make everything look as realistic as possible.

One comment made by a character really stuck with me: the idea that, for those who choose science and reason, magic doesn't exist. For them, they will never see magic; they've disallowed it in their minds. But for those open to it, it's a different world.

It's not as far-reaching as the Sandman series, but Gaiman doesn't disappoint. The case for magic is, of course, strong, but there's also a hefty price for it, as Timothy quickly learns. I don't really remember much about the following books (by John Rey, which I also read back in 2003) but this one, at least, is worth checking out.

Fed to jonathan's brain | September 28, 2009 | Comments (0)


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