THE MAGIC CIRCLE by Katherine Neville

THE MAGIC CIRCLE

KIRKUS REVIEW

Like Neville’s 1988 debut, The Eight, another daft, overstuffed, sprawling sofa of a yarn involving dozens of famous figures, places, and objects, along with a mysterious manuscript that nobody ever gets to read—oh, yeah, and the collapse of communism. Ariel Behn, a nuclear security worker and part-time code-breaker, is devastated when her beloved brother, Sam (he isn’t really her brother and. . . well, it’s complicated), turns up dead. Among other things, he had a manuscript for Ariel that, suddenly, all sorts of people are eager to lay their hands on. Then a decidedly undead Sam (bad guys tried to assassinate him and got the wrong man) contacts his sister and says he sent her the encoded document, though it’s never arrived. The devilishly handsome Wolfgang Hauser of the International Atomic Energy Agency also shows an interest in the manuscript, as does Uncle Lafcadio, arriving from Austria, violin teacher Dacian Bassarides (Ariel’s grandfather, we eventually learn), and Ariel’s boss, Pastor Owen Dart. Meanwhile, in numerous historical asides, we meet Ariel’s great-aunt Clio (she finds something important in the Sibyl’s cave in 1890), Jesus, Aleister Crowley, Pontius Pilate, four Roman emperors, Joseph of Arimathea, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and. . . . What are they all after? It seems a set of ancient sacred objects, or “Hallows,” possess immense magical powers, and the manuscript describes—maybe locates—those objects. There’s more than one manuscript, of course. Elsewhere, Ariel learns just how diverse and cosmopolitan her huge family is: Adolf Hitler, or “Lucky,” was a close family friend; various other relatives turn out to be fascists; and wolfish Wolfgang, a Nazi who’s crazy about Ariel while he thinks she’s thoroughly Aryan, is crushed to learn that her grandfather was a gypsy. The heroine’s devastating discoveries concerning her family’s murky history are intriguing and worthwhile; pity Neville didn’t just junk the rest of it. Still, fans of The Eight should stagger away with bemused grins. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-345-40792-X
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1998




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