What happens when you mix late night reading, an engaging plot, and a main protagonist who wraps you up in her spell? The Magician’s Lie.
The Amazing Arden, one of the most renowned female illusionists, is suspected of killing her husband after they find his body after her performance. Steadfast in her innocence, Arden begs to tell us her story, how she came to the police station that night, in order to understand that she had no part in the crime. However, what words can you trust when Arden’s profession is to create illusions? Where do the lies and stretching of the story end when even her name isn’t hers?
Once you turn the first page of this book, you’ll be hooked. From the beginning, Arden enchants us, not only with her lilting prose but her vulnerability. Arden herself is somewhat of a mystery, even after I have closed the book. A dangerous and challenging past makes her story one of adventure, love, and danger. In addition, she is surrounded by characters whose sharpness and detail lend color to her story. Characters, even those who are side characters, are nuanced, making the most out of their few lines. One of these characters is the interviewing Officer Holt, who has his own secrets and reasons for desiring Arden’s guilt.
Before I end with what I enjoyed the most, I need to mention the way that the story is brought together. It is the glue that ties the characters and the writing together. While the plot is engaging enough on its own, it is the way the story is constructed that influenced my enjoyment. Alternating chapters between Arden’s story and the real-time conversation between herself and Officer Holt creates an undeniable tension. As the night grows later, our interest rises, the time gap decreasing and the danger peaking. The mystery is always unraveling as we are drawn in. Arden’s story is framed, like snapshots in a scrapbook, and by witnessing the distance between these moments, Arden’s character comes to life.
The two things I loved most from the book were main themes in the book. Firstly, the idea that confessions are stories in and of themselves and must begin with our beginnings. Officer Holt views this as a stalling technique, and perhaps for Arden that’s the case, but I was still struck by how poignant this is. How we are all the result of a collection of our decisions, memories, experiences, and how even if or when we are to confess, these moments are inextricable from each other. Who are we without our past? A simple confession tells us only a half picture, only a mere fraction of the motive, or our reasons or our guilt.
Secondly, I was absolutely transfixed by the tension between illusion and reality that Macallistar balances throughout the book. This conflict manifests itself in a variety of ways, ranging from questions about how authentic someone’s second sight is to if Arden is actually telling the truth. Combined with the almost mystical way Arden tells her story, you never quite lose the apprehension, the mystery, or the lingering doubt about the story’s credibility.
This tension is like the air we hold in our lungs as we wait for the magic trick, the moment a coin is suspended in midair before it falls. Just like Officer Holt, just like Arden’s audience, we risk being caught up, captivated and tricked. And isn’t it grand? Isn’t that a metaphor for the act of reading? The way we want to be swept away by the words and the worlds, to be convinced of the reality of mermaids and sword-wielding heroines? It is that precarious moment, the wobbling of our balance on the tightrope of uncertainty that we love, crave even, not only in illusions, but in the everyday magic of reading.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
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