Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Prestige

Title: The Prestige
Author: Christopher Priest
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1995

Recommendation: An engrossing read for fantasy fans and non-genre readers alike.
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Two magicians, Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier are magicians in London at the end of the 19th century. Their lives become intertwined through a continuous feud over each other's secrets and the feud will take them further than they have ever imagined.

Reactions: I came across this book browsing the bookstore shelves and bought it without any particular knowledge about the contents or the author. The jacket proclaimed it to be the winner of the World Fantasy Award and the unusual description intrigued me.

Having finished the book, I am very glad to have stumbled across this particular gem. The Prestige is a superbly written account and masterful in a variety of ways. The most obvious one is the narration of the novel. The story is presented in roughly three parts: one part follows a meeting between the descendants of the two magicians, the second part is presented through Alfred Borden's diary, and the third part is the presentation of the same events through Rupert Angier's diary. All three are masterfully connected together through a set of mysteries that slowly become revealed to the reader.

It's a fairly unusual type of fantasy novel in that for the large part of the book there's almost nothing mystical or fantastical about it. Only about 2/3rds into the novel something unusual occurs and it's almost in the realm of science fiction or alternative history. Yet, the twist is very important to the story and brings the whole narrative together to a good ending. There's also an amazing sense of the plot being tied together and I can only applaud the author at how well he intertwines the lives of the two magicians and echoes their respective lives across the narratives.

On top of all this, we get a pretty authentic feel for the stage arts of the 19th century magicians and get a feel for a solid cast of characters who are well-drawn, realistic, and very distinct from anything a fantasy reader would associate with the term "magician".

So if you have lived under a rock like me and have never heard of this book before, I highly recommend it. Apparently there is even a movie based on the book directed by Christopher Nolan that came out in 2006 and has good ratings. Yes, I clearly live under a very remote and mossy rock for I missed the movie as well. Time to go check Netflix....


  1. All I can say is that you got me curious. It kinda sounds like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I'm putting it on the list.

  2. Yeah, there's a bit of resemblance to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Funny how I didn't actually think of that until you mentioned the book.

  3. I've been wanting to read this myself. I really like the film a great deal, although I have no clue as to how faithful the adaptation is. I think you would like it, barring any problems you might have with the faithfulness of the adaptation, of course. It is well acted, intense, and the sets, costumes, etc. are great.

  4. I should definitely give it a chance. I haven't had time to pick it up yet. I do recommend the book to you though, I am sure you'll enjoy it even if you know what happens.

  5. I love this book, too! Try reading "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern - it's not so intense as The Prestige, but very enjoyable, absorbing, and magical.

    1. I've heard a lot about The Night Circus last year and it's definitely on my to-read list now.