Kaaron Warren – Mistification

Marvo is a stage magician. His magic is real.

Marvo grows up without knowing his parents, without knowing his heritage, without knowing much about life.

The magicians have always been with us, since the beginning of civilisation. They fill our heads with the mist, keeping us from witnessing the stark reality of existence. But are things so bad that Marvo will bring it down on all of us, forever?

Marvo begins to understand those around him, and his place in the world; he discovers that his remarkable powers can be put to good, or to evil.

He only has to choose…
(Description taken from the publisher’s website)

Misitification is a book like no other. That sounds cliché, but in this case it’s absolutely true. While the set up of the novel is somewhat reminiscent of some of the stories in the classic A Thousand and One Nights – it’s a semi-continuous story, interlaced with short vignettes – that which is contained in the narrative and the subjects of the little vignettes is unique, at least in my reading experience.

The opening scenes of the novel reminded me somewhat of the Achterhuis. Indeed, I had this idea that the story might be set in Nazi-occupied territories. And while Marvo and his grandmother are in hiding, we quickly discover that Marvo’s world is not a Nazi-occupied one. In fact, I still couldn’t tell you where exactly the book took place. However, this doesn’t matter as the focus is so tightly on Marvo and his story and his world is so infused with magic, both of the true variety and that of illusions, that where we are is far less important than what, who and how we are.

One of the main plot points in the story is the relationship between Marvo and Andra, which is quite interesting and conflicted. On the one hand Andra seems to be cheating on Marvo at times, on the other hand she stays with him despite his almost callous disregard for her feelings and needs. If one takes Andra as a feminised form of andros, the Greek word for man, you could argue that Marvo’s relationship with Andra is a mirror to his relationship with mankind. Going from a curious, young, and naive boy, Marvo turns into a rather bitter and weary man. As a youth he is fascinated by people, by their lives and their stories, but as a grown man, he slowly loses his passion for humanity, as he loses his passion for Andra. Her, and their, stories can’t captivate him any more and he grows more and more distant and more and more introverted. In addition, where he started out relatively fearless, he ends up living in paranoid fear that he’ll be killed during a performance. As a result he grows ever more elusive to the world around him.

As Marvo moves through life and he loses his innocence, he becomes more and more disillusioned and less inclined to guard the world from mass-depression through his magic of mists. The stories that fascinated him as a young man, which provided his education and a focus through which to see and understand the world, turn from illuminating the wonders of the world and mankind to shining a stark and unrelenting spotlight on Marvo’s world and clearly reveal the sharp and unpleasant side of humanity to him. Still the novel ends on a hopeful note, with Marvo coming full circle and choosing a different life for his successor. One is left to imagine that this time around, life will be different for the misty magician and perhaps her life will be more balanced and happier.

Mistification is at once weirdly bizarre and utterly fascinating. It’s a tale that’ll make you think about the world and the way we view it, about how much our perception shapes our reality. It’s a tale that won’t be for everyone, but one I loved. For a less enthusiastic (and far more erudite) review see Niall a.k.a The Speculative Scotsman‘s review over on Strange Horizons. In any case, Mistification was my first taste of Kaaron Warren’s writing and I definitely plan to check out her previous books with Angry Robot, Slights and Walking the Tree, because just one taste wasn’t enough.

This book was sent to me for review by the publisher.

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  • Very kind of you to talk about my review in such terms, Mieneke. Very much enjoyed reading yours, too! Mistification is, love it or hate it, or somewhere-in-between it, as I did, an incredibly ambitious novel; smartly and softly done for the greater part; and absolutely evidence of Kaaron Warren's tremendous talents.

    In terms of the pure narrative pleasure of each of her novels, however, Mistification narrowly missed the uppermost branch of Walking the Tree, for me. You really must read that one!

  • Ooh this sounds interesting, thanks for reviewing it Mieneke!

  • “Slights” was quietly, but impressively the most disturbing book I have read in a very long time. I was spellbound.

  • I guess I really do need to read Kaaron's previous two books!

  • Hi, Mieneke!

    I just became a follower! I found you through the Speculative Fiction Challenge at “Floor to Ceiling Books”.

    I really enjoyed reading this review, so much so that I have featured it in my Book Blogger Hop post, hosted by Jennifer at “Crazy For Books”!

    Your review gives a definite feel for the book and characters, and I will certainly be adding it to my TRB pile! I especially liked that you pointed out the source of the name “Andra”, as well as how it functions as a metaphor.

    Here's the link to my post:

    http://anightsdreamofbooks.blogspot.com/2011/10/book-blogger-hop-7-10711-101011.html

    Have a GREAT weekend!! : )

  • Thank you so much for your kind words Maria! And thank you for featuring me on your blog!! I'm glad you enjoy my reviews :-) I hope you'll enjoy Mistification.