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Magic Street by Orson Scott Card
Review by Drew Bittner
Del Rey Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0345416899
Date: 28 June, 2005 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

When a professor's wife gives birth in the course of an hour, seemingly due to the machinations of a homeless African American called Bag Man, it sets in motion a chain of events that will play out over many years in the neighborhood of Baldwin Hills. This is Magic Street, where nearly anything can happen.

The infant (later named Mack Street) is found by Ceese Tucker, a boy with extraordinary willpower. He persuades nurse Ura Lee Smitcher to raise the child, with his help, and manages to resist an unusual challenge in the form of a female motorcyclist. Ceese turns away from the temptations of juvenile delinquency (in the form of his buddy and bad influence Raymo), dedicating himself to helping Mack and making something of himself.

As he grows up, Mack realizes he has weird dreams. He finds himself a passenger in the fantasies of his neighbors... but even stranger, if he allows the dream to reach its end, it sometimes comes true in a horrifying way. A girl who dreams of swimming is found inside her parents' waterbed, while another girl's wish to have her dad around all the time is granted by her father's crippling accident. Mack grows to fear his dreams and fights to contain them.

Later, he finds a magical house squeezed between two homes, in a space that cannot exist. He cannot see it directly, but only out of the corner of his eye. Going inside, he meets Bag Man and begins to learn some of his personal history... and how it ties into a play by William Shakespeare. He intrudes into the land of Faerie, then persuades Ceese to go with him. It turns out that half of the Faerie Queen's spirit is trapped inside a glass bulb. She was trapped when she used her powers to confine the Faerie King deep underground. But now he is waking up... and he has plans for the remarkable Mack Street.

Unless Mack can solve the riddle of his true nature, with help from Ceese and the uncanny motorcyclist Yolanda White (and unwitting opposition from his half-brother Wordsworth Williams), he cannot rally the people of Baldwin Hills. He needs their support and the power of their dreams, or everything will be lost as the dark power of Faerie rises once again.

Orson Scott Card brings his A-game to this tale, his first novel-length urban fantasy. He is a master storyteller, bringing together some of Shakespeare's best-known work with a modern, middle class neighborhood. His use of street slang seems balanced, contrasting those with aspirations and those without, while not making judgments about the characters and how they live their lives.

Card explores issues of identity and pre-destination through Mack's ongoing quest to find himself. The way he works them out is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Recommended.

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