A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H.G. Parry,
Orbit, £8.99, P/B, 531pp.
Reviewed by Steve Dean.
It is the age of enlightenment in this novel, not in real life; new magical and political movements are on the move. There’s a revolution in France, a slave uprising in the Caribbean and a rather important meeting in Great Britain. But there’s an unknown force stirring things up, and the people currently arguing will have to stop and work together to defeat it. Then, I presume, go back to the fighting.
The world in which the novel is set is basically our own around the time of those real-world events, but with magicians and other magical types thrown in. When it comes to world-building, that’s pretty much it.
This is one of those multi-stranded stories, with several plots taking place at the same time but which don’t necessarily interact. These threads involve such famous people as William Pitt and Robespierre. These particular storylines are, without a doubt, the dullest, most boring collection of words I’ve ever read. They talk for hours and hours and say nothing. Apart from some shenanigans with the dark, shadowy ghost things they get attacked by, whole chapters could have been left out, and it would improve the book.
The only thread that worked for me was the one involving a young girl, taken from Africa and branded a slave. She is given the name Fina and fed an alchemical substance to suppress her magic powers and make her pliant and unable to disobey orders. We follow her through several years as she continually pushes against all her bonds and never loses hope. Although not perfect, this thread goes some way to redeeming the novel. The chapter headings tell you which thread you’re reading, so it’s easy enough to skip to the good parts.
Overall then, something of a damp squib for the most part. Seventy-five per cent boring characters saying nothing and twenty-five per cent a decent but not great story.