When I was reading Real Magic by Stuart Jaffe and Cameron Francis, I kept seeing the story in my head as an old black and white B movie. This is fortunate: I have a real sense of nostalgia for the B&W movies I watched on late night TV as a teen. As such, this book really works: it puts you into the setting with an old-timey sense of style that readily envelops the mob, close-up magic, narrow escapes, and romance.
The main character, Duncan Rose, was trained by his grandfather, Pappy, as a magician. Duncan is skilled, but in 2013, he is choosing to use his to be a card cheat not a magician. He cheats the wrong people and ends up in danger with no one to turn to for the money he needs to save himself. His last option is Pappy, but when he gets to Pappy’s apartment, it’s been cleaned up, and Pappy is gone.
All his life, Pappy warned Duncan not to go through the door Pappy stored in the back of his apartment. Duncan seldom listens. With Pappy gone, he steps through the door and finds himself in 1934.
Once in the past, he finds magicians, the mob, and unexpected love in rapid succession. A creature of habit, he ends up in trouble once again. Whe he hears about a trick door that may be his way home, Duncan goes on the run, chased by gangsters, to find the door before the gangsters do.
Overall, Real Magic is an enjoyable read. The characters are nicely fleshed out, the plot is well done, and, as I’ve previously said, the book has a great sense of style. During the course of the story, Duncan has the opportunity to become a better person. He takes that opportunity, making him a more likely hero and one you will find yourself rooting for as the action kicks off.
A fun side point in the story is the opportunity to learn card tricks that were designed specifically for the book. This should be of particular interest to folks who enjoy trying their hand at that kind of thing. I would never pretend to have the manual dexterity required for sleight of hand, but I found the explanations interesting, and they added to the story.
Tthe time travel elements were generally handled well. I found a small problem when Duncan charitably hands some of the cash he brought with him from present day to a needy family in a depression-era breadline. Any money that Duncan has in his pocket from today would be absolutely useless in 1934: it would look wrong, even if the recipient didn’t look at the date.
The only other element I would note for readers like myself who fall into that nostalgic sense of black and white movie-time is that the book contains one brief but explicit sex scene. I would have preferred it was suggested rather than spelled out. It wasn’t a good match for the overall style of the story.
I rate Real Magic at 4 stars. Once Duncan is back in 1934, it’s a nice period piece and a good read. People who like stories about (sort of) good guys escaping the (completely) bad guys and don’t mind a little time travel thrown in will enjoy walking through the door with Duncan to a black and white adventure. You can purchase Real Magic – A Time Travel Fantasy from Amazon.com for only $4.99.