Review: The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman

Review: The Heart of the Circle by Keren LandsmanThe Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: fantasy, urban fantasy
Pages: 400
Published by Angry Robot on August 13, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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Sorcerers fight for the right to exist and fall in love, in this extraordinary alternate world fantasy thriller by award-winning Israeli author Keren Landsman.

Throughout human history there have always been sorcerers, once idolised and now exploited for their powers. In Israel, the Sons of Simeon, a group of religious extremists, persecute sorcerers while the government turns a blind eye. After a march for equal rights ends in brutal murder, empath, moodifier and reluctant waiter Reed becomes the next target. While his sorcerous and normie friends seek out his future killers, Reed complicates everything by falling hopelessly in love. As the battle for survival grows ever more personal, can Reed protect himself and his friends as the Sons of Simeon close in around them?

File Under: Fantasy [ Love Squared - Stuck in the Margins - Emotional Injection - Fight the Power ]

My Review:

In a kind of twisted way, The Heart of the Circle reminded me of American Magic in that they both feel like responses to the Statute of Secrecy in Harry Potter. In American Magic, the reveal of the secret of magic is treated like a weaponized virus or other standard spy-thriller macguffin.

But The Heart of the Circle, while also having aspects of a thriller, feels like it comes out of the urban fantasy tradition, and not just because it takes place in a major city, in this case, Tel Aviv.

I say the urban fantasy tradition because this is a minor variation on our current world, but one in which magic not only works, but always has worked, a la Harry Potter. However, in The Heart of the Circle, magic has not only always worked, but it has always been known. There is no Statute of Secrecy here.

Which doesn’t mean that there aren’t witch hunts.

In the past, magic and magic users have been respected and feared. But mostly respected. Or so it seems. We are dropped into this story sometime in their 21st century, and pretty much in the midst of the action. Ancient history isn’t talked about a whole lot, because the present is going off the rails.

A group of religious fundamentalists has done an all too effective job of weaponizing the human hate and fear of “the other” and turned it against the sorcerers. There’s a constant drumbeat in the press to turn sorcerers into “the other” so that their humanity can be legislated away. So that they can be harassed and discriminated against and killed without consequences.

The language and methods that they use will sound all too familiar to anyone who has read about the Holocaust – or read the news or followed twitter regarding the way that immigrants in the U.S. are being demonized this day.

Although, in fine fantasy fashion, the reasons behind this particular weaponization of hate and fear turn out to be nothing like they seem to be. The most interesting agendas are extremely heinous and deeply hidden.

Following our protagonist, Reed Katz, we become involved in the sorcerers’ community as everyone fears for their livelihood and their lives, and we watch them fight back. We become involved in their world and we feel for their plight. They have not, in fact, done anything wrong. They are being hated, and killed, for what they are – while the people who murder them are not even condemned for the crimes they have actually committed.

In Reed’s story, and the story of his community, I saw reflections of our present. The story’s setting in Israel may allow Americans to pretend that this can’t happen here, but it is. The fantasy setting allows readers to see the situation from a distance, but it is all too easy to recognize that it is here and now.

This begins as a story of a beleaguered community dealing with unrelenting hate. It becomes a story about rising up and not just protecting that community, but about proactively discovering the heart of the hate – and exposing it for what it really is.

The Heart of the Circle turns out to be love. Not only romantic love, although that is certainly there, but love of all kinds and all stripes. The love of friends, the love of family, and especially the love of community.

Escape Rating A+: This is a book that sucks the reader into its heart, and doesn’t spit you out until the final page is turned. And I loved every minute of it.

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