In 1878, two young stage magicians clash in the dark during the course of a fraudulent séance. From this moment on, their lives become webs of deceit and revelation as they vie to outwit and expose one another. Their rivalry will take them to the peaks of their careers, but with terrible consequences. In the course of pursuing each other’s ruin, they will deploy all the deception their magicians’ craft can command–the highest misdirection and the darkest science. Blood will be spilled, but it will not be enough. In the end, their legacy will pass on for generations…to descendants who must, for their sanity’s sake, untangle the puzzle left to them. (via GoodReads)
Switching between the viewpoints of Andrew Westley and Kate Angier, and their feuding magician ancestors: Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier (respectively), the book goes into more detail about illusionists before it becomes anything supernatural, but it does get there.
To be honest, if I hadn’t seen the movie first, I probably would have given up on the book after the first few chapters. I don’t like being given information that’s meaning will not be revealed until the last five pages; that’s why I don’t read mysteries. But loving the movie made me willing to read the book, and I’m glad I did. Of course I’m partial to anything that speaks highly of Nikola Tesla, and subsequently my hometown (Colorado Springs), but since they don’t make their appearance until ¾ of the way through the book, it had to be enjoyable enough to get there. Borden and Angier had a professional feud that became so personal that it affected their descendents for the next 100 years. But the feud is put to rest when Andrew and Kate come together to solve the bigger mystery about Andrew’s birth parents and a crime Kate witnessed as a child. Christopher Priest does a fantastic job of giving each of the narrators a distinctive voice, and placing you in their lives, whether in the 21st or the 19th centuries. The details of the lives of magicians and the landscape they inhabit are incredibly well researched, and you really believe it could be someone’s diary. The fanaticism that drives Borden and Angier to torture each other leads to something that blurs the lines of reality and real magic-changing every life that they’ve touched.