Deep Magic by Gillian St. Kevern reads like a high school teenager’s journal…except that actually sounds interesting and this novel really isn’t. There’s no Mean Girls insight into the social hierarchy of the cafeteria nor the personal resonance of “My So Called Life” nor the poetic tortured angst of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Not to mention that this man/boy is supposed to be, like, twenty, but he demonstrates the maturity of a 15 year old.
Meet Oliver Evans.
From the very beginning the author can’t seem to decide if Oliver is a free spirit wanderer; a social misfit longing to fit in; a closet deviant; or some sort of aloof romantic asshole. We readers depend upon the author to be our guide, to introduce us to the scene and the principle players with the appropriate verbal cues so we know how much to care. Instead the story feels like the author can’t commit to who Oliver Evans really is, which leads to a fractured, immature, and ultimately uninteresting portrayal of the main character. It’s hard to care about someone you can’t get to know because who he is keeps shifting.
Kind of like dating Sybil.
Or someone possessed by demons.
In addition to this slippery debut of the protagonist, the author spends the first quarter of the novel attempting to build up to a big reveal regarding Oliver’s sexuality but the foreshadowing is heavy handed, taking all the punch out of the “surprise”.
I was truly confused as to why the author put so much effort (and so many pages) into this sort of ta-da. Like dating profiles, novels are pretty clearly categorized so that you, O Reader, can find what you’re looking for.
Picking up a book labeled MM and then, gasp! finding out the main character is gay is not surprising.
And why should a person’s sexual orientation be treated like a zinger, anyways?
After this apparently shocking revelation, the story focuses on the usual kind of trope: Will he or won’t he find love?
Oliver Evan’s whole world view can be summed up with this one question: Does he think I’m hot?
Throughout the rest of the novel, I was repeatedly confused by the main character’s interpretation of events. For example, Oliver believes his grandmother’s house was invaded by…something or someone. He goes to the village church to ask for help, but the break-in seems to be a thinly veiled excuse to lust over a holy man.
The priest returns with Oliver to the home and gives some advice to replace the charm in the window as well as handing over a heavy silver crucifix. He also offers to find Oliver another place to stay, so the poor man/boy doesn’t have to remain in the scary cottage all alone. Oliver declines, blah blah blah, boring stuff.
The very next chapter reads, “Caught between anti-social and odd curates…”
Did I miss something? The Reverend seemed very supportive. I’m not sure what exactly was anti-social about offering to help and handing over one’s personal religious totem.
Maybe Oliver missed all the helpfulness because he was too focused on wondering whether or not the priest thought he was hot.
Best of the Rest:
I liked the parts in Welsh that I didn’t actually understand.
This basically reads like Romance for Dummies with all the excitement of how to assemble IKEA furniture, without a feeling of accomplishment once you’ve finished.