I discovered Kiersten White last year when I read her excellent novel, Hide (my review here: https://davewritesanddraws.com/2022/01/17/arc-review-hide-by-kiersten-white/). Hide was a delight from beginning to end, a high-tension thriller with a supernatural twist that still managed to have important things to say about trauma and families, both the ones we’re born into and the ones we find.
The good news is, I think Mister Magic might be even better. The novel starts with one of the best first chapters I’ve read in a long time, a mysterious, evocative opening that establishes the tone for the rest of the story. The best way I can think of to describe it is a feeling of malevolent nostalgia, but that only scratches the surface. This is one helluva book.
What is Mister Magic about? I’m only going to give you the bare bones, because what’s important here, at least to me, are the characters, their relationships, and the darkly magical mood White creates and sustains for 304 pages. It’s not that White doesn’t tell a compelling story with a tightly wound plot that pulls you forward. She does, indeed. It’s just that Mister Magic is much more than that.
So, the bare bones: thirty years ago a classic children’s television show came to an abrupt end when tragedy struck. The funny thing is, while the show is fondly remembered by a generation of kids who grew up with it, those memories are shaky, hazy at best, and contradictory. Even stranger, in these days when just about every piece of popular culture in existence is available with the stroke of a few keys, the Mister Magic show has vanished without a trace. Now the five cast members—children then, adults now—have been reunited under mysterious circumstances.
And that’s all you’re going to get.
Those cast members, each and every one of them damaged in one way or another, unite to face a seductive, evil force that stole their childhoods away, sunk hooks into their psyches that are still there to this day. I mentioned that Hide dealt with trauma and families. Mister Magic does, too, in a way, but here it’s layered with guilt, regret, and ultimately with hidden reserves of strength and bravery despite the odds. Like I said, this is one helluva book.
One last thing—even if you don’t usually, be sure to read White’s afterward. It adds even more depth and nuance to an already beautifully written story.
Mister Magic releases August 8, 2023, and is very much worthy of a pre-order.