The Red Magician

The Red Magician - Lisa Goldstein

(I got a copy courtesy of OpenRoad Media through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

An interesting short story, though I must admit it wasn't exactly what I expected, and I ended up not liking it as much as I hoped.

On the one hand, I could easily feel the magic permeating the atmosphere, the strange aura surrounding Vörös. Moreover, there's a golem in the middle, and I'm often very, very partial towards golems (everybody has their favourite mythological/magical creature; well, this is mine).

I liked the theme of revenge and misdirected anger woven through the story. Though not original in itself, it hit home, and the book managed to show how sterile and blind revenge may be, yet also how born from genuine feelings: when your fear and grief for your loved ones are so strong, and when you can't actually strike at the real culprits, what else can you do? Wouldn't you turn to the next designated villain in your line of sight—even though he's not a villain, even though he's not responsible?

On the other hand, I found that the characters in general lacked substance. I didn't really get to "feel" the presence of Kicsi's family, for instance, nor of her potential fiancé, and so their fates seemed almost as secondary. I kept wondering why Vörös didn't fill a more active role: he could probably have done a lot more (alright, at some point he was missing some of his tools... but there might have been a way to retrieve them), and instead kept going away. This didn't really fit with his claims of having wanted to warn people, to the point where his worry and eagerness actually achieved the contrary.

The Holocaust part, too, felt rushed, and not exploited in a way that could have made the novel really striking. I sensed that more could've been done to it, because the author definitely seemed to have a knack to describe both the camps and the life before them in a peaceful community.

Conclusion: a likeable story, with powerful elements that may not have been exploited to their fullest potential.