Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker.
Fiction Friday: The Court Magician
Today’s short story is The Court Magician, by Sarah Pinsker, as featured in Lightspeed Magazine. You can find it here. It’s a gripping tale about the consequences of magic and curiosity as one boy’s desire to be a magician ruins his life and understand the power magic is capable of. It’s a wonderful story, with a few minor quirks, but it’s definitely one worth reading. It’s an alternate take on the idea of being a magician and that magic has consequences.
With that, let’s begin.
The story is about a young boy who wants to believe in real magic after seeing street magicians perform. Believing that their magic is nothing more than an illusion, he undergoes training, only to find that not only is the magic real, but it’s tearing him apart, literally. Many body parts go missing and as he ages into adulthood, he begins to learn the hard way about refusing to believe in magic.
It’s a short one (about 3000 words) so I won’t go too far into the plot. The story is a creepy one in that those who don’t believe in magic suffer in this world. I’m sure many of us writers grew up believing in magic (why would we be writing otherwise?). The story gets dark quickly and takes a turn I wasn’t quite anticipating.
The character development the boy goes through to find out the truth behind this magic is an interesting one. I won’t go into a character review like before since it’s one notable character, but I feel this is also parallel to our own lives. As adults, we don’t often believe in magic like kids do. We’re more understanding of how the world works.
The boy not believing in magic from the start and suffering because of it shows that we always must believe in magic. Even as an adult, I feel there’s a magical side to our world and while some would scoff at that, I’m not one to change on a whim.
I doubt we’re suffering as much as this kid is, but it’s an interesting thought to have. What happens when we stop believing in magic? Will we suffer the same fate as this child? And once you do realize magic is real, is it too late?
The message is clear to me and it’s a tale that pulls no punches about it.
My only gripe with this story is the confusion of tenses. Much of the story is in third person, but it’s told from the POV of a person watching over him, who is hardly referenced in the story. I finally understood what was going on, but it’s a jarring shift between third and first. It didn’t quite work for me and I felt it could have been told better in either tense, not both. While the structure and storytelling were great, I felt this was a strange choice for the story.
A bit shorter than most reviews, but there’s not much to it. If you can get past the shift in POV, the story is a great one and well told. It’s a magical tale that makes you think. At the same time, it’s a simple read with not much to look at. Not bad, but I felt a little more detail and focus could have been at play. Give the child and the mysterious I more focus rather than have a shortened rendition. I get that it’s a short story, but this could have been a few thousand words longer.
Good story overall, though. Definitely enjoyed it.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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