"I've always loved this volatile quality that magic has. This ability to create meaning and defy meaning. To be real and not real. That's how it feels when you're waiting for your life to start and yet somehow, impossibly, having to live it at the same time." -- Andrew Eliopulos
It's strange, give me a book and tell me there's a sorcerer in it.. and I'm all about it. Normally though, if instead you swap that word out for magician, I'm going to reflexively just make a face and hesitate. I don't know why.
In my head a magician is a performer and while I enjoy a good magic show as much as the next person, I really don't usually want to read a book or watch a film about it. There have been exceptions, of course. Both The Prestige and The Illusionist were great films and I loved them, but I'm hard pressed to think of a single book until this year that has labeled magic wielders as magicians, that I've actually been interested enough to read.
That being said, since I've gone back to reviewing.. and this time with books, I've required myself to keep an open mind.. to try concepts I might normally skip when my reading time is more limited.
'The Fascinators' by Andrew Eliopulos is a story about 'magickers' that I didn't even bat an eye at before deciding I needed to read it. From the synopsis alone, I knew I had to go on this adventure. There's something even about the cover that for me radiated late summer/early fall friendships and an 'us against the world' feeling. It made me think of Breakfast Club and Goonies.. even Stranger Things a little bit.
"If you've ever cast a spell alone in your room in the dark, wishing you were somewhere--or someone--else, this book is for you." -- Andrew Eliopulos (Dedication)
Sam, our protagonist, lives in a small town where pretty much everything marks you as an outcast. Magic, religious beliefs, sexual preferences.. anything that doesn't align with the majority of the community is frowned upon. He's got two best friends, James and Delia, that he's counting on to see him through his senior year.
Though the three teens have been friends for ages, early on the group starts to splinter. Sam is having confusing feelings for James, Delia is finding their amateur magic club disappointing, and new elements are at play.. causing rifts between them.
Turns out that over the summer, James also got mixed up with some shady magic users and that's making everyone's lives difficult too. Difficulties that even magic can't fix.
"(His mom always countered that his relationship with James was less like a fire and more like Schrodinger's cat, and Sam was just afraid to open the box to find out whether it was alive or dead.)"
I have to tell you, Sam is just the sweetest boy. He's tormented by his feelings and by the pressure of not fitting in.. even in places where that was never the case for him before. I found myself genuinely hoping for him to find love and happiness.
Dynamically, the group evolves quite a lot from the start to the finish of the novel and though I wasn't always pleased with the actions of every character, I felt satisfied with the results of their choices. I enjoyed watching them evolve. Their dialogue feels very natural, in some cases it's filled with easy banter and in others, the discomfort is like a physical thing between them. The funny moments really stand out, they're not rare.. but they are fabulous.
"Mary Ellen's has the best biscuits and gravy you have ever eaten or will ever eat. It's like gravy soup with biscuit croutons. It's like a gravy landslide over biscuit city."
"I'm not sure you're convincing me by comparing the food to a natural disaster."
"It's like a natural disaster that's making way for a better civilization."
"Wow, Sam. Didn't peg you for a kill-all-humans type, but I guess we all have our dark sides."
The magic itself, is fairly wide-ranging.. though most of what we see is elemental in nature, magic also surprisingly, doesn't play that much of a role in the scenes. It's a major part of the story, but the scenes are really all about the group and how the magic they use changes their circumstances and their core beings.
Honestly, I can easily say I loved this book. It's fun, but not too light-hearted. The relationships are warm, but imperfect. And even the parents vary from dismissive and narrow-minded to supportive and loving. I feel like it's easy to see the paths each character is set on and how they become who they are.
What a great story..