Many fantasy novels written in modern times are too…well, fantastic. The creatures and their hierarchies, the various groups that use popular corporations as fronts, the millions of details that are all so carefully concealed from the rest of the world, be them mundanes or Muggles. While there are fantastic leaps of logic in William Little’s Magadon, the novel is also surprisingly grounded in the way that characters think and feel and the reactions they have to fantastical and magical phenomenon. The fantasy of Magadon is subtle and encourages readers to contemplate the questions the novel presents in new, different ways.
If I had to give Magadon a specific subgenre, I wouldn’t be able to, and that speaks to Little’s varied writing. There are elements of buddy-cop detective stories, true crime novels, wilderness and survival tales, and Arthurian royal fantasy, all wrapped into a very accessible tale about a man who has lost everything he loves and dares to continue living.
“Life happens, and the aftermath is the stuff that determines who we are.”
Ben Smith begins Magadon living a “charmed” life in Oceanside, California, a fact that he readily acknowledges. He is successful and well-respected in his field, moderately wealthy, married to a beautiful wife with four children. Life is perfect for Ben Smith until it goes tragically wrong. In the wake of the death of his beloved wife and children, Ben loses the drive and purpose he once had in life. It isn’t until a minor accident changes the course of his life that Ben finally heads out to Colorado, purchasing a ranch sight-unseen.
Magadon is presented through multiple viewpoints, which is necessary given the complex world that Little creates. The novel is seemingly set in the present-day United States, but as readers continue through the novel it becomes increasingly clear that all is not what is seems in the world of Magadon. Little treats these discrepancies with reverence but never self-importance: the fantastic elements of Magadon are whatever the readers interpret them to be. Little also treats his readers with respect, offering clues throughout the novel for those inquiring minds who attempt to discover the secrets on their own, but also presenting a wonderful story in itself for those who prefer to simply see where their reading takes them. As I read through the novel I began to piece together some idea of what was going on, but there were still enough unanswered questions to drive me on. Detectives and pleasure readers alike will appreciate the tale they discover in Magadon.
Little’s world is magnificent in itself, but the added layer of varied characters in Magadon is what truly gives the novel life. There are aspects of Native American culture incorporated respectfully into the novel, as well as the charms of a small town, the allures of a sunny city, and the fierce nature of an untamed mountain wilderness. Every character, from Oceanside, California to Fenton, Colorado, adds a unique flavor to the overall story, giving it an authenticity that I couldn’t help but appreciate. Even the villains are well shaped, as I learned their true natures slowly throughout the story. There are a few moments where the characters don’t seem fleshed out, but more often than not Little provides an interesting cast of people to tell the story of Magadon.
I am reluctant to give too much detail about the fantasy aspects of Magadon, as I don’t want to spoil the surprising twist that accompanies those aspects towards the end of the novel, but suffice it to say that Little has created a unique sort of fantasy. There are mentions of power unimaginable, of abilities both magical and terrifying, early enough in the novel that it is clear that elements of fantasy come into play, but readers are able to discover those fantastic elements along with the characters they read about. Little does a great job of balancing show with tell, exposition with simple reveal, and thus he makes the world and story of Magadon as interesting as it is detailed.
Little’s writing is extremely accessible to readers of all levels and most ages. While I recommend a mature audience for this novel due to some of the rather graphic details included, the story itself is a remarkably fresh one, a tale of love but also individuality, of destiny and fate but also the idea that everyone has the ability to choose where their life leads. Magadon was, for me, surprisingly insightful, as it told a universal sort of story even with the specific details Little uses to paint his world for readers. The multiple character perspectives that Little uses are never confusing, even as they meld into one another – at any given point in the novel, it is easy to determine who is thinking and speaking.
Magadon is more than a fantasy novel, and more than a tale about a man learning to define himself again after the unthinkable occurs. It’s a story about how choice can affect circumstances and fate, about the drive and will to live in even the worst situations, and about the ways in which our lives are our own, even when everything seems out of our control. Ultimately, William Little’s Magadon is a story about humanity, and it’s definitely a story you should read.