Review ~ Houdini

Houdini by Charlotte L.R. Kane

Cover via Goodreads

A modern day version of the Houdini brothers. Read about how Harry and Theo came into the world of magic and what happens when Harry is given the opportunity of a life time – the only stipulation being: Theo is to be left behind. Will Harry take this opportunity and how will Theo deal with knowing his brother could leave him? (via Goodreads)

I picked up this ebook back in December when it was released. In the authors notes, Ms. Kane relates that she was inspired to write this story after seeing the play Houdini, written by Stuart Brennan. I haven’t seen the play, but I frequent enough magic/magic history sites to have seen some press concerning it. My understanding is that is concerns the “Houdini Brothers,” as Ehrich and Theodore Weiss were known early in their careers, and what happened when Ehrich is given the opportunity to become Harry Houdini, the solo act.

I don’t know how accurate the play is historically. My impression has been that while Theo, rebranded as Hadeen, was never as successful as Harry, he had a pretty decent career in his own right, and there wasn’t bad blood between them. I could be wrong, I haven’t read all that much about Houdini and his family unrelated to my main subjects of magical interest. In the end, that is neither here nor there. My impression of the book, after reading the authors note, was that Charlotte L.R. Kane wished to write the story of two brother magicians set in the modern technological world. I’m good with that. That could be an interesting story, filled with YouTube and Twitter skullduggery. (Reading the Magic subreddit, it feels like the world of young magicians can be divided between the ones who use YouTube and the ones who loathe it.)

When writing reviews, I try to keep in mind cilantro and werewolves, but readers enter into reading with expectations. I expected magicians and magic. The characters are named Harry and Theo Houdini, but there isn’t much magic beyond that. The story could have as easily been about two singers, two actors, two stockbrokers. One brother becomes successful at the cost of other aspects of his life, one becomes obsessed with trying to be half as good at the cost of other aspects of his life. There is only small mention of Houdini’s signature tricks or magic at all. As a lover of systems, it’s also hard for me to get around the alternate universe aspects of this novella’s setup. Houdini and Hardeen were products of their time, and magicians today are to a slight degree products of Houdini (and Hardeen as well). I can close my eyes and let them be plucked from history, but their stories would be different.

The biggest problem with this ebook is that it felt very thrown together. Again, referencing the author’s note, Ms. Kane says she saw the play in September 2013. The book was released in December 2013. This novella was rushed and it absolutely shows. There are quite a few typos. The time period never feels like the 70s, 80s, 90s, or 00s. I couldn’t decide if this version of Harry and Theo were from New York or somewhere in England because the details were muddled. I’m not a die hard believer in “show, don’t tell,” but this was almost entirely the latter. This book was bland and poorly edited. Not a great way to kick off Indie Fever.

Publisher: Self-published.
Publication date: December 8, 2013
Genre: Literary fiction.
Why did I choose to read this book? Interest in magic and magic fiction.

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3 thoughts on “Review ~ Houdini

  1. It’s interesting to find out about today’s magicians use (or not) of YouTube. I hadn’t thought about how today’s technology might play into their acts.

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