The Prestige: A Review

The Prestige by Christopher Priest is a haunting literary fantasy novel. Priest perfectly blends excellent writing and literary prose with the chilling and suspenseful elements of a dark mystery and fantasy. The story is of two magicians in the 1800s who, after a clash during a false seance, have pitted against each other, determined to destroy the other's career. As the feud deepens their efforts become darker and the secrets more intense. The book is built on the concept of deception and lies, as the magician's life often is. These two magicians, however, take it to an extreme, molding their lives around their lies to an extent that they are not only consumed by their lies but lost in them as well.

I was completely taken in by this book and could not put it down. I tried to finish it last night but couldn't keep my eyes open so I put it down and as soon as I woke up this morning I had to finish it before I even left my bed! Well, not that I really wanted to leave my bed anyways, it's chilly here! The Prestige is suspenseful in the most satisfying way as it's subtle and Priest takes his time building up the suspense and the mystery. He avoids being cliche so well throughout the book that even though the ending ended up being cliche it doesn't feel cliche because it was built up so well and like I said, Priest had avoided being cliche in this story so well that you could accept the ending and even enjoy it in it's most morbid sense. The ending is anti-climatic but it's one that makes you think about it afterwards, putting the pieces of the mystery together that Priest allows to remain untold by the end of the book so that the reader can have the pleasure of finishing it for themselves in their minds.

The plot was unique and masterfully constructed, the writing was excellent and the voices were not only realistic and convincing but unique and interesting. I'm eager to see the movie to see how they transformed this novel into the big screen. I can see many complications in doing so due to the manner in which the novel was constructed. It was told by the two magicians from their points of views, first completely by one then by the other so only one side is known throughout the first half of the novel. This approach left many mysteries lingering for much of the novel that had we had both points of views throughout, perhaps alternating by chapter, the mystery and suspense would have been lessened.

Perfect novel to read for this Halloween season and as in most cases the books are better than the movie, I suggest getting it immediately so you can finish it before the movie comes out on October 20th!

Sorry if this review is a little sloppy, I'm on call and just got called to the hospital so must run!!

Update: I had no idea the book has a historical basis.

...the historical background can be found in Jim Steinmeyer's The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo, the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer". A long, destructive rivalry between two magicians, the idea that a magician would go so far as to cultivate a false identity even in his private life, and maintain it for years, and some of the specific 'illusions' themselves, like the deadly "bullet catch," are all factually grounded and can be found detailed in Mr. Steinmeyer's entertaining book. In something of an acknowledgment of this history (and to plant some of the plot points I just listed), Chung Ling Soo himself, or at least his character, makes an appearance towards the beginning of The Prestige.
Thanks to book/daddy for this great info! Really interesting stuff, I tell ya.

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