It would be agreeable to report that Tryon's last go at the supernatural was on par with his occult classic, The Other (1971)- -agreeable, but untrue. The author, who died in 1991, left behind this all-too- obvious, often sentimental fable that lacks both suspenseful horrors and plausible surprises. In New York City, one-eyed Max Wurlitzer (the latter-day embodiment of miracle workers dating back before Merlin) literally stumbles across Michael Hawke, a young charmer whose ambition is to become the world's greatest magician. For now, though, Michael works as a street performer; on one fateful day, his act irritates the sinister Max, who turns him momentarily into a frog. The brief encounter sends Michael--against the concerned counsel of flutist Emily Chang, his enchanting ladylove--in pursuit of the monocular magus. As Max intended all along, Michael finally makes contact with and apprentices himself to the sorcerer, who presides over the down-at-heel Little Cairo Museum of Wonders on Manhattan's West Side. In thrall to the ageless wizard, who instructs his heir-apparent in stage conjuring and the blacker arts of night magic, Michael forsakes his friends and Emily, who nonetheless manages to join Max's theater troupe. All but oblivious to those around them, the master and his student single-mindedly prepare for a grand-finale performance at which Michael will claim his tutor's wand. Before he can do so, however, he must survive a daunting test of his new powers in an apocalyptic climax that pits him against Max in the necromantic equivalent of mortal combat. Emily succumbs during the dramatic proceedings, Max departs for whatever sector of the astral plane is reserved for retired spellbinders, and Michael is left (without illusions) to count the cost of reaching his goal. A prosaic take on a Faustian bargain that has precious little resonance in an age where virtual reality is fast becoming a norm.