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The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein

The Red Magician (1982)

by Lisa Goldstein

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Here, Goldstein brings the feel of the mythopoeic into a WWII story.

Kisci is a young Jewish girl who's never been outside her insular, rural community. She longs to experience the wider world, and when a red-haired traveler comes to town, he captures her imagination, even though his warnings of doom are nothing anyone wants to hear. The local rabbi insists that the traveler is an enemy, and works himself up to a raging vendetta against him, ignoring evil omens... and the source of the real threat.

However, soon enough, the outside world will encroach on Kisci's village in a way that none of her neighbors could believe. War is on the way...

Traditional Jewish folklore is prominent, with the myth of the Wandering Jew and the legend of the Golem woven into the narrative. The format of the story is a familiar fantasy: the battle between two powerful wizards. But, while crafting a fairy tale; the story deals with historical horrors with a delicate yet moving touch.

Recommended: this story is a bit what I expected Jane Yolen's 'Briar Rose' (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/10632913) to be like.

I've only previously read one other book by Goldstein, and I much preferred this one. (I'm glad that, when deciding to read this, I actually hadn't remembered that I'd read it - I might not have chosen to, and I would've missed out!)

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me the opportunity to read this novel. As always, my opinions are my own. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |

The pacing in this is very uneven. It seems the author has spent a lot more time on the first third of the book than the rest, and more time on the middle part than the final third. ( )
  StigE | Sep 15, 2015 |
This is the story of Kicsi, an Eastern European Jew, and Vörös, a magician trying to save her village from the Nazis. I've had a heavy interest in Holocaust stories ever since I read The Diary of Anne Frank in middle school. I accidentally bought two copies of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak because the blurb on the back made me want to start reading immediately. So, when I read the synopsis for The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein, on Netgalley, I requested it right away.

Unfortunately, I can only give this book four stars. Everything about it is great, but it didn't grab me emotionally. I never shed a tear for any of the characters. I even questioned if perhaps I'd become desensitized to these types of stories, though I know I haven't. I still don't know what is missing from this book to explain why I didn't ugly cry the way I did over The Book Thief, as well as so many other stories that take place during WWII.

I still recommend reading this book, though. As I've already said, it's a great book. The plot, pacing, and quality of writing are all excellent. It would be a good choice to couple with The Diary of Anne Frank in middle school English classes.
( )
  FortifiedByBooks | Apr 8, 2015 |
I received a free galley of this book at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I selected this book to read, I was anticipating a historical fantasy novel involving magicians. That is what is was but not at all what I expected. The magic was not really touched on in any significant manner other than to describe it and inform the reader, through the protagonist, that we would not understand it. I felt that the magic was more a form of spiritual mysticism than real magic.

The protagonist spends the book watching the conflict of the two 'magicians' and barely living her life. I never found myself feeling particularly attached or drawn to her. At one point she delves into a bout of survivors guilt and I was left wondering why since she had barely interacted with those who died.

Dealing with WWII, this book had the potential to make some excellent points, and it did brush up against them, but then it walked away.

It was not bad, but then again...not great. ( )
  Velmeran | Nov 15, 2014 |
But it doesn't take courage to die. That's easy. It takes courage to live.

I had never heard of this book before I saw it on NetGalley. It won the National Book Award and Open Road Media is now publishing it in ebook format. I love reading books that take place in WWII and I can't really remember reading many that have some sci-fi or fantasy aspects to them, so this was like a new spin to a theme that I love reading about.

I love that this book included pronunciations of certain character names. My pronunciations would have been way off without it and it made reading this book easier as I didn't have to stumble over the names. As far as the characters themselves are concerned there was one that really stuck out for me and that was Vörös. I liked him throughout the book and was constantly curious about him (almost as curious as Kicsi was in the beginning). There were times when I felt so bad for Kicsi but there weren't many times when I really liked her that much. Her personality went from one extreme in the beginning to another towards the end. Her journey was heartbreaking but I didn't really manage to connect with her the way that I connected with Vörös.

I liked that this book had a great balance between the fantasy aspects and the horrors that are WWII. I was definitely interested in reading about both and was glad to see that neither of them really hogged the storyline from the other. I would definitely recommend this book if you want to read about WWII but like some fantasy as well. Thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Media for the galley. ( )
  dpappas | Oct 16, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312890079, Paperback)

Winner of the 1983 American Book Award, The Red Magician was an immediate classic.

On the eve of World War II, a wandering magician comes to a small Hungarian village prophesying death and destruction. Eleven-year-old Kicsi believes Vörös, and attempts to aid him in protecting the village.

But the local rabbi, who possesses magical powers, insists that the village is safe, and frustrates Vörös's attempts to transport them all to safety. Then the Nazis come and the world changes.

Miraculously, Kicsi survives the horrors of the concentration camp and returns to her village to witness the final climactic battle between the rabbi and the Red Magician, the Old World and the New.

The Red Magician is a notable work of Holocaust literature and a distinguished work of fiction, as well as a marvelously entertaining fantasy that is, in the end, wise and transcendent.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:12 -0400)

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