Barth Anderson’s latest work, The Magician and The Fool, is a dense descriptive piece that informs the reader of a possible history of the tarot while leading you into a netherworld full of rich conflicting images. The historical facts and speculation are engaging, but the pacing of the book is so slow and disjointed that the average reader will likely have a hard time caring about what is going in the story by the climax of the book. For those that are patient a second reading might enhance their enjoyment of the story as they pick up several details that are easy to miss on the first pass.
The story centers on Jeremiah Rosemont, a scholar that has left academia in disgrace and settled into the nomadic existence of a migrant worker in Central America. He is running low on cash when he receives a mysterious summons to Rome complete with a plane ticket. Burning with curiosity, he feels compelled to respond–a choice that will lead him into a pursuit for a series of paintings that may be the first tarot deck. A former friend, John C. Miles, wants him to authenticate the paintings. Jeremiah is not alone in the chase and is quickly enmeshed in a situation rife with magic and violence that he has to face in order to solve the mystery and save his life. Meanwhile the Boy King, a homeless man half a world away, may be the key to solving the mystery.
The quest to find the first tarot deck and determine if it does indeed have some hidden magical power is presented as a whirlwind chase across the world and through time with the author making an effort to inject suspense by keeping the reader guessing as to the timeline and the true nature of the events and the problems facing the characters as they pursue the deck. At times the effect is not entirely suspenseful as it may leave you feeling as though the author has no idea what’s going on and is instead leaping from perspective to perspective without fully planning out the story. Anderson’s latest work is not without some merit though, as there are moments when you really connect with individual characters lives and viewpoints in a way that takes you outside of yourself and completely into the reality he has created inside this book. All in all this is not a story for every reader, but it can be an enjoyable ride for the right reader.
Mikki Thicklin has been a fan of books since she first learned her ABC’s. Her interests have narrowed over the years (she finally stopped reading the dictionary) but her love of science fiction and fantasy has never wavered. These days she’s writing about it as well reading it and she couldn’t be happier.