Magic Casement

Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 7, 2006

Magic Casement by Dave Duncan

Nine people attended and eight both started and finished the book. About half had read Duncan before. Magic Casement is the first book in a four volume collection known as “A Man of His Word”. The readers opinions were generally favorable, with some criticisms. Highly recommended by most readers. Dave Duncan is one of the Guests of Honor at the World Fantasy Convention coming to Austin in November 2006.

The readers generally considered the book to be well written with no bumps or shaky places. Another reader thought it had great craftsmanship. There was a dislike by some of the stereotype start, with a princess being displaced from her inheritance and the assumption that she was entitled to get it back, but others accepted that as necessary to setup the action. Duncan did take shortcuts to setup much of the plot, using fantasy stereotypes and broad sketches of racial stereotypical behavior for different fantasy races to provide a backdrop for the much more complex and subtle plot twists and themes he was really aiming at. He frequently used the reader’s assumptions to spring major plot twists by surprise. The event was a total shock, but after seeing the plot twist, the reader looks back and can see all the clues were subtly provided, but missed due to the reader’s false assumptions. One reader said: “the story gives amazing satisfaction, in spite of the cliff hanger ending, with a reasonable sense of resolution.” In spite of being the first of a four book set, many loose ends were tied up reasonably well.

Another reader considered it a fabulously inventive series with the author having found a voice to gently make fun of the stereotypical assumptions of readers of fantasy. Also, the author explores the American “mono-man” myth (that one person can change the world) in unusual ways. Several noted the intentional riffs off other writing styles, for example, the section on the princess’s social education being highly reminiscent of Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer.

The biggest complaint is that the book is hard to find as it has been out of print for a while, and getting the full set of four is even more difficult. It takes diligent effort at the used book stores to find these early Duncan books.

— Patrick McGehearty