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I’ve just finished reading “The Black Magician Trilogy” by Trudi Canavan and it left me wondering, not for the first time, what it is about magic that we find so appealing?
I’m not a huge fan of the science fantasy genre of novels, although I enjoyed Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathon Strange and Mr.Norrell”, the Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy and “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern. I think it’s the escapism that appeals: here no angst about relationships, no attempt at realism. Unencumbered by this, the story can move around in time and place. All these novels conjure up worlds other than ours, allowing our imagination to soar as we picture cities and towers, animals and people, worlds that have never and could never exist.
We’re fascinated by things we can’t explain: from UFO’s, to ghostly sightings and weird atmospheres in buildings, to the ancient Nazca lines in Peru, inexplicably made by humans, but only visible from the air.
So much still to discover, which I suppose is why the concept of magic, “black” or otherwise, is still so popular today.
Filming or televising fantasy novels has always been difficult, though it is easier nowadays with the modern CGI effects. “The Northern Lights”, the first book of Philip Pullman’s trilogy was brilliantly translated to screen as “The Golden Compass” and I understand that the only reason the rest haven’t been filmed is due to objections from religious groups in America, who decided it was anti-Catholic and even sought to “destroy God”.
I had been looking forward to seeing how “Jonathon Strange and Mr.Norrell” would fare on television but whilst enjoying the characterisation and admiring the special effects, it didn’t match up to what I remembered from reading the book, and my husband, who hadn’t read it, found the while thing just too confusing!
“The Night Circus” was recommended to me by my niece and I had read good reviews of it. It took a while to get used to the idea of it, but once I did I found it hard to put it down, and its one of those books that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
The “Black Magician trilogy” was also recommended to me. In these books Trudi Canavan creates a whole world of palaces, cities and countries, populated by magicians, scholars and kings. There’s no doubting the cleverness and originality of the ideas but I found the basic stories in each novel rather trite. I even began to wonder if her target audience was teenagers rather than adults.
These are long books and whilst parts were un-put-downable, it was nonetheless with a certain sense of relief that I finished the last one, and whilst I wouldn’t give up altogether on fantasy novels it was good to get back to the sort of books I normally read.
Bethany Askew is the author of seven novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years and The Two Saras.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Two more women’s fiction books have been accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021 respectively and she is currently working on a new novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.