In “MagicLand” (Morgan James Publishing), debut author Charles Bastille creates an almost-decimated Earth where the small remaining population is at war. The magicians of Moria and the tech-enhanced denizens of Gath couldn’t be more different from each other, whether as individuals or as societies. They are hardly even the same species. For thousands of years, their people have been enemies.
In this novel, we’re introduced to Belex, a Gath humanoid augmented by technological and cybernetic mechanisms, and Aurilena, a Morian magician and “priestess in training.” Belex has crash-landed into Moria and loses his connection to his network, stoven.net, which basically helps the Gath to function (think the Borg from the Star Trek universe). He finds himself not only severed from his network, but disconnected from his people’s truths and beliefs and even from the notion that this “wiccan” who saved him, Aurilena, is really a “primitive” enemy.
In fact, he may actually be falling in love with her. Or is he just there to kill?
The omniscient, close third-person point-of-view story is told mainly through the perspectives of Belex and Aurilena, but the elder Hilkiah (who we meet as a boy in the prologue) and others tell sections of the story from their points of view. In many scenes we’re in every character’s thoughts simultaneously, which can be jarring but also revealing, all while creating a sense of immediacy for the reader.
Much of the backstory and worldbuilding is done through characters’ flashbacks or recollections. Want to know why a plot point matters or what it has to do with the story? Just read on to the next subsection and all will be revealed.
Each chapter has subsection numbering that many readers of more contemporary novels may see as a notable shift away from the usual chapter setup. It reminds one of early European literature, specifically epic novels and ensemble stories like The Canterbury Tales. Whether or not that was the intent, the subsection numbering helps to distinguish scene changes even as the omniscient close point of view remains throughout.
COMPLEX WORLD BUILDING, SIMPLE THEMES
While the plot and tropes in the novel are intricate and layered, the basic themes are immediately recognizable. Characters in “MagicLand” are working through the issues inherent in our own world: technology and science versus spirituality, racial relations and shared ancestry, the concepts of power and love and ultimately good versus evil. The internal, and more interesting, struggle for Belex and Aurilena is recognizing where their beliefs lie when it comes to these social yet moral issues and how they need to change to become better people in order to save their world.
When I dove into “MagicLand” I had no idea what to expect. But as I sank deeper into it, I recognized several references from not only fantasy but sci-fi worlds that many enthusiasts will readily know. “MagicLand” features a mashup of names, settings, and character references from fantasies like The Hobbit, sci-fi pop cultural icons like Star Trek and even the Bible. Like most great fantasies, this one also has an element of fatalistic romance.
A personal side note: I had to know what, if anything, was at stoven.net while I was reading. (Sometimes I want to know what an author’s plan is when creating these things.) I went there so you don’t have to. The site is a placeholder for someone with the name Stoven. It’s not affiliated with this book. Curiosity abated. As with “MagicLand,” some things cross paths with our world; others remain purely fantasy.