What is it about magic?

I know, I know. I’ve neglected this blog for way too long. But now at least I have something to write about. I think.

Yesterday I finished reading “The Magicians’ Guild” by Trudi Canavan, which I’d got from BetterWorldBooks at Tanya‘s suggestion, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

It took me a while to get the courage to start it, to tell you the truth. Though pretty much all my favourite books are set in fantasy worlds, I get quite spooked with covers such as these:

There’s something about half-photoshopped pictures in covers that freaks me out. And as I’ve mentioned, I judge a book by its cover.

But if someone who loves Neil Gaiman as much as I do loved this, it must be good, right? So I picked it up and had a bit of a struggle letting go to study for my pre-midterms. It’s GOOD. The characters are interesting, the story moves along at a quickening pace, and you just can’t wait to read more about this world, this magical society – their buildings, their classes, even their door knobs. Everything is interesting, everything is engaging.

I did take a step back more towards the end of it, though. I had the eerie sensation that this was going to be one of those annoying series with no proper ending ’till the very end at the last book – you’ve read at least one of those, right? But sure enough, it quickly patched things up and though there’s a big hook linking it to the next book (which I’ve already ordered at BWB), the plot of this book was pretty much concluded. Nicely, too.

There were bits that were a bit annoying, particularly whom she chose to trust and distrust, and I wanted to yell at her, but thankfully there’s reason soon enough. There are also bits I didn’t really think matched the character’s previous behaviour – and perhaps that was meant to illustrate personal growth? I don’t know, it still made for pretty witty, fun characters to get to know.

But that was not the thing that I wanted to write about — At the university, a friend came up to me when I was reading this book, looked at the cover and honestly uttered the question “But it’s fiction, it’s fake! How do you bear to read it?”. I was shocked. I’m used to being appalled by their not reading Hitchhikers’ Guide or Harry Potter, and understand that at the moment it is a bit tricky to squeeze in some books not related to our classes, but COME ON.

The most coherent thought I could come up with was “Because it’s FUN”. But that shouldn’t be all of it, should it? There must be a reason for it to be fun. And it’s something that has been tormenting me for days.

Is it about escaping into this other world we know nothing about and discover it bit by bit? I hear that one quite often – stories as a distraction, an escape from reality. And sure, that must be it. But there’s something else too, isn’t there? Something that captures our attention and turns us into little children again.

I think it’s magic.

By reading something someone else wrote we’re giving them the power to construct whatever characters, whatever plots and whatever worlds the author wants. They are masters of the universe for the length of those pages. It feels a bit like magic, doesn’t it? The way twists and fixes spring about. Entire cities created, complex societies described. Creativity flows and we’re drawn to it.

I’ve got this book I got at the airport, it’s called “What are you optimistic about?” and in it there are several little articles by different people saying – you’ve guessed it – what they are optimistic about. One of these is about the world population. The author (whose name I cannot for the life of me find) said he was optimistic about the extra billion people that are expected (and dreaded, for the most part). He says something like “That’s an extra billion creative minds, thinking up solutions”. I’d never heard anyone see it like that.

And I think books can support that view — aren’t they the biggest proof of all the creativity running around?

Through that, I believe reading books somehow gives us power too, in some level. We’re given one of the best presents we could get — hope. That perhaps we’re not as helpless as we’d think. Perhaps all we need is a good idea, a good magician.

What do you think? Was I too high on caffeine and lack of sleep when I thought about this?

And what on earth should I tell No-Fiction Guy?