The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister is a novel I did not expect to like as much as I did. It seems people have mixed feelings about it, which always makes me nervous. Also, after getting burnt out on historical fiction, I was cautious about dipping my toe back into the genre.
Plus, the comparison of The Magician’s Lie to Water for Elephants does Ms. Macallister’s novel a disservice. For people like me, who don’t like anything having to do with circuses, such a comparison might make people avoid The Magician’s Lie. It is one of the reasons why it took me so long to start reading it because, as much as I liked Sara Gruen’s novel, I still hate circuses.
To me, the two novels have more differences than similarities. I feel more empathy for Arden. Not only is her story more interesting, but I also think her primary relationship is more intense and honest. The other relationship in her life is not a relationship at all. You hardly remember who a specific person is because of how little involvement he has in her life. Even better, I love how she spills some of the tricks of the trade when it comes to illusions. The behind-the-scenes glimpse into an industry known for its secrets thrilled me more than it should have, considering the story occurs around the turn of the century.
As he questions the integrity of her tale, the scenes with Virgil are fraught with tension and anxiety. Yet, Arden’s innocence is anything but certain, and you understand his nervousness as a sign of his uncertainty. In these scenes, your sympathies lie with Virgil only as you can only feel for a man who feels so second-rate and down on himself.
If anything, Virgil is a testament to Ms. Macallister’s writing ability. Even though his scenes are short and relatively uninformative, we care about him more than the main character. I want to protect Virgil against anything and everything that might befall him. Even though he is nothing but the medium which allows Arden to tell her story, I want to make sure he gets his happily ever after. It’s a remarkable feat to establish a connection with a mere foil.
The Magician’s Lie is the third of Ms. Macallister’s novels I have read, and I think it is my favorite. She includes such fascinating historical tidbits to enhance the story. Moreover, her subject matter is equally interesting. For me, though, what sets The Magician’s Lie apart from her other novels is how she chooses to tell her story. The back and forth between past and present, as well as the back and forth between Arden and Virgil, not only enhance the story’s overall tension, you find yourself invested in the story more than you would be without it.