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The Magic Goes Away
by Larry Niven

cruise
classifications: Fantasy / Humourous

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The Magic Goes Away isn't an incredible world spanning epic. Nor is it a fiendishly complex tale of politics and people. It does not even have action-packed sword fights.

It is, however, immensely fun to read. It is the last of a sequence set on earth many millenia ago, before, as the title suggests, the magic went away. Mana, the mystical energy that powers magic, is running out, and spells have lost their potency. A small group of sorcerers concoct a desperate plan to access the last store of mana, dragging an unfortunate barbarian along with them.

Niven applies his usual logic and reason to a fantasy setting extremely well, a refreshing change from the sometimes arbitary abilities of magic and magicians in other stories. It also allows Niven to sneak in a number of clever references to modern day earth, as the magicians ponder the conditions in a world without magic.

This impending disapperance of their way of life, or more, gives the story an undercurrent of sadness and loss that's both touching and poignant.

Some have commented that the logical fantasy and modern-day references sound much like Pratchett's work. The Magic Goes Away is much different from any of the Discword novels, however. Less sardonic, and more compassionate than that series' cutting wit. What humour there is is more gentle, with no hint of bitterness. This is simply a tale of ordinary people, with ordinary feelings. Sometimes there will be humour, other times sadness. Niven's expertise is evident in his ability to produce such realism in a world consisting of mages walking upon clouds, and talking skulls.

The Magic Goes Away will likely only take a few hours to read through, and as such will not appeal to those who like to immerse themselves within a world. If you are looking for a brief but enjoyable diversion, however, then there a few books better than this.

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