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Forgettable, and I Have Proof! – a review of the Magician of Hoad by Margaret Mahy

I had a moment while reading this book. I read a line early on in the novel that I recognised, had me flashing back to a time where I read this book in high school for one period we had in the library. I didn’t realise I had read this book before when I picked it up prior. And it makes sense, because when I read it the second time I imagined it to be completely different to when I read it the first time.

When I read that line it should’ve been a sign to put the book down.

Heriot was known to have fits which his farming family concealed from all visitors, until the King’s Lord arrives after some mysterious events and rumours that conspired. He has the magical potential to be the Magician of Hoad, a fate that Heriot doesn’t want to take up. Yet he is forced into it, forced to become a shell and a toll for the king’s disposal, for entertainment and political affairs. As he grows he becomes further disconnected from himself, only finding connect with the King’s mad son Dysart through supernatural means.

And somehow he feels the magical essence of the kingdom of Hoad in trouble or something? I don’t know, it was written so bad I couldn’t connect anything together.

None of the characters had either a complete personality or a unique personality. The characters were either very distinguishable in terms of personality from the rest, but you couldn’t tell what their flaws were or if they even made any character development by the time the novel finished. Or they were carbon copies of lords and ladies. I was mostly the latter. My god, how can a cast of characters be so boring? I confused which of the royal men were talking so much that they almost melted together into an amorphous blob. Half the time I couldn’t even tell what motives all these characters had. There had never been such a band palette of characters set before me in my life.

Even a world so small was not built out. This is the number one thing you need to do in fantasy as you tell the story – build out the world. And for all that I described, this whole thing could’ve taken place in my backyard with all the characters shrunken down. There are authors who spend too much time on worldbuilding, but Mahy didn’t spend enough time on that. The canvas was barely painted. It was all aesthetics and no depth, if an aesthetic was even there to begin with. Nothing about this story’s world felt real except the confusing as to how everything worked.

One such aspect was Heriot’s magic, which was barely explored or explained. With the magic being the primary things that makes this story a fantasy story, it was next to never a part of it. It was heavily involved at the start, and then forgotten about until the end with no exploration as to how the powers worked, no explanations as to where this magic came from, and no limits or struggles shown as Heriot used it. Why even make him magical in the first place if it barely impacted the story?

The plot was the main way the story was told, but I could not tell what happened for what reasons. Whatever did try to connect this story was so boring and un-fantasy that, just like the first time I read a fraction of this novel, I’m going to forget it. Half the novel Heriot was moping around in an orchard hutt, then this chick called Linnet was doing nothing but observing random politics going on around her until she discovered she had feelings for the prince, and apparently three years went by after each section or something? But I couldn’t tell you much more.

Actually wait, I can. This book was a massive disappointment. Such a shame from a beloved New Zealand author.

The Magician of Hoad gets a score of 1/5. I forget this book once, I’m bound to forget it again.

Yours in writing

Amy