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The Magician and the Fool by Barth Anderson
Review by Gayle Surrette
Bantam Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553383591
Date: 25 March 2008 List Price $13.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Barth Anderson's Website / Barth Anderson's Blog / Interview / Show Official Info /

Jeremiah Rosemont's academic career fell out from under him. He found a sort of peace drifting from place to place -- working odd jobs as he wandered throughout South America. In a hostel he'd chosen by chance, a man gave him a letter containing a plane ticket to Italy and an address. It seemed like a good time to change location, but he finds that nothing is what it seems -- his past, his life, or time.

Anderson sets you up to expect a certain type of narrative and plot and then proceeds to drop you down the rabbit hole with hardly any clues as to what's happening but so intrigued you can't stop reading. Part mystery and part magical fantasy and all so twisted and convoluted that you feel like your brain will spontaneously combust with the effort to figure it out.

So why keep reading if it's so weird? Well, the story line is so seductively smooth that by the time you realize that you're in over your head, you're hooked and you have to figure out if there is a connection between the Boy Kind, Jeremiah, and John Miles. And if so, what is it? Are we in the future, the past, or the now and does it really matter? Then there are the tarot cards. Are they just cards? Do they really predict the future? What do they mean to the characters or their lives? Are the characters paranoid or is someone really after them?

So while there is mystery aplenty, it's the mystery of self-discovery along with the mystery of the unknown. Hard to classify? Yes, it is. And harder still to try to explain to someone who hasn't read it just what it is that made it such an interesting reading experience without giving the whole thing away.

I couldn't give it up. I had to know where the story was leading and what would happen. Was there a mystery to be solved or was it simply a voyage of discovery? There's the story. There's what you bring to the story. And, there's what you take away from the story. This is one that is truly in the heart and mind of the reader. Yes, the author has written a taut story but that is only the beginning -- it's not complete without a reader.

If you like crisp dialogue, well-developed characters, some laugh-out-loud scenes, allusions to things barely or only subconsciously remembered stories -- the ones that raise the hairs on the back of your neck, and a nonlinear story line -- this is a book you need to read. And if you happen to know anything about tarot it will just add to the underlying feelings of déjà vu.

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