Monday, January 15, 2018

The Court Magician, by Sarah Pinsker

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(High Fantasy) In which we learn how the new court magician was recruited and find out how even a “market rat” can qualify. We learn that there is real magic, but it comes with a price. (3,148 words; Time: 10m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"The Court Magician," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 92, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The young magician’s desire to understand real magic keeps him experimenting with the word of power long past the point where most of his predecessors gave up. (Although the narrator went until they were nothing but a disembodied voice.)

Most of us take jobs where we trade off our youth and even our health in order to satisfy the often-irrational demands of our superiors, and the court magician is most likely symbolic of that.

Con: None of the characters ever really became real to me, so I didn’t find the ending particularly moving. The symbolism of the young man leaving to search for what he lost was unclear to me as well.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 92)
Sarah Pinsker Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. In the author spotlight, Pinsker talks about a political inspiration. The cost of being complicit with this ruler. He never really examines the consequences of what he helps the ruler do -- beyond his personal loses. And, of course, the ruler pays nothing. In the end, I think the man (the "young" is dropped in the last section) leaves to "find himself" (missing teeth, fingers, etc.) to figure out who he is when he's not allowing himself to be manipulated.

    1. I really don't read stories looking for messages. If it beats me over the head with the message, I'll give it two stars. But if, in this case, you had to know the message to appreciate the story, that's bad for a different reason. The message ought to be icing on the cake--but the cake should stand without it.

    2. Yeah, I really only put it together after reading the interview. Funny, she thought the political influences would be quite obvious. And I saw one reviewer say they thought the message was a little too on the nose. I thought it worked alright as simply the cost of magic (power). And then living for himself, instead of someone else at the end