Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.

mister magicThirty years after a tragedy ended the popular children’s show, Mister Magic, there is barely any trace of it left in the world. Except those writing fanfic and speculating on conspiracy theories. There’s plenty of people who remember the show, just no one can find an episode of it. Until a podcast announces a special reunion episode, the circle of friends back together once more.

Your favourite childhood television program feels like a fever dream.

Val has no memory of her life before the ranch. Her father has kept them hidden for the past thirty years, and she has no idea why. She just has this feeling it’s all her fault.

Some old children’s TV is pretty creepy isn’t it? So this was a great starting point for a horror story. The house in the desert was unsettling, six stories high and lacking in doors. There’s something off about the show too, special effects that were way too advanced for its time. Then there’s that cape of inky darkness revealing Mister Magic himself.

Open doors swallow you whole.

Val’s lack of memory means she has no qualms about joining the remaining cast members when they turn up at her door. She feels she knows these people, she just can’t remember them. It’s obvious some childhood trauma has blanked out her memories, and these people might be the key to unlocking them. Only not everything is quite what it seems, as they drive into the otherwise desert to a creepy apartment building, things don’t add up.

It becomes clear that Mister Magic is being used to indoctrinate certain beliefs and behaviours into the children both on the show and who watch it. All the little songs and rhymes that seem harmless as a day, are more problematic when viewed through the harsh daylight of adulthood.

“I’m fine,” she says, because it’s what she always says. If she says it firmly enough, she believes it, too. Like fine is a blanket she can pull from the ether and wrap around herself.

In the author note, Kiersten explains that she was raised Mormon but left and this book is her way of exploring that experience. I’ve seen quite a few reviews where people said they were confused about the story before they read the author’s explanation, however towards the end, I felt it was quite obvious is was talking about religion.

But even putting aside the religion aspect, there was plenty of dodgy stuff happening in children’s TV in the last century, so I think you can also read it through that lens. Kids being pushed into television when they aren’t old enough to make choices, their entire lives changed because of it. Those who fell foul to predators hiding in plain sight. And of course plenty of old shows were designed to teach kids a certain way of doing things, even if they weren’t outright religious dogma.

Mister Magic is published by Del Rey and will be available in hardback, ebook and audiobook editions from 1st August 2023. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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