For any and all readers who enjoyed Erin Morgenstern’s otherworldly masterpiece The Night Circus, prepare yourself for another spin on the emotional wheel. The Magician’s Lie is a historical fiction set during the turn of the century, taking place in small towns, golden-age cities, marble mansions, and theaters both small and large.
The Amazing Arden, a renowned female magician in a world dominated by men, is suspected of murder. After a chance encounter, desperate policeman Virgil Holt overpowers Arden and manages to keep her hostage in Janesville’s small town police station. He needs her to be guilty, yearns to come out the hero of this story, but as Arden’s midnight tale of love, fear, suffering, and strength unwinds in full, a different song rings true. Macallister leads us through two different narratives: the tense standoff in the police station, and the series of events, starting from childhood, that has led Arden to Janesville, Iowa.
While it is clear Arden is our protagonist, Holt is our proxy. He is our guide, experiencing the world for us. As a result, Arden’s exposition occupies nearly all of the narrative, and Holt’s character is unceremoniously pushed into the wings. What Holt lacks in description he achieves in development, but even his epiphany is hastily brushed aside to make room for Arden.
One of the most striking elements of the novel is Macallister’s objectivity. The Magician’s Lie has no prelude or expositional fluff; she is deep in the rising action of the story by the first page. The story is rich in detail, description, and thrilling entertainment. One can practically smell the silk, sweat and creme makeup, hear the cheering of the audience, and feel the heat from the stage lights emanating from the pages.
Greer Macallister empowers women and men alike to find their will to live by weaving the yarn of a young woman running a gauntlet of abuse, illusion and love. One of Arden’s motivators throughout the story is her love life, but here Macallister does not back down from her pro-women message. Romance is important to The Magician’s Lie, but it is not all consuming or overwhelming; Arden cannot be defined by her romance, but by her actions as an individual. The Magician’s Lie is an enrapturing and genuinely hypnotising story that is sure to convince readers of the magic on stage, behind the scenes and, most importantly, in themselves.
Reviewed by Catherine Mesure