Mistification by Kaaron Warren – review

This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading Challenge. All my AWWC reviews can be found here.

Mistification by Kaaron Warren is an interesting book – very different from anything I’ve read in quite a while. It is one of those books I suspect of having hidden depths and that my meagre comprehension skills means I’ve missed the point of much of the story. So if you read a review which teases out a sensitive and powerful underlying message that makes a profound statement about human nature and our place in the world, pay more attention to that review rather than this one.

And perhaps provide a link in the comments below for me!

Marvo the Magician, grows up hidden in a hidden attic in a house with only his grandmother for company. By sneaking out at night he scavengers enough for them to live on, including a book of magic tricks which he devours.

When he gets older he realises that he also has real magic, the ability to pull “mist” down and reshape people’s perceptions, memories and the world around them. When his grandmother dies he leaves his hidden sanctuary and heads out into the real world.

I found the structure of the novel interesting. It is made up of an overarching story arc with a series of vignettes, small stories by transient characters that serve to illustrate some of the larger themes of the book. It took little while to get into the groove of this style of story telling. At first I found the tangents a little distracting, and I put the book down and picked it up a few times without really getting into it. However, one longer stint of reading when home sick from work helped me pick up the thread and I found the second half of the book much easier to manage.

The novel explores a lot, sexual politics, relationships, fate vs destiny and in particular the baser motivations of human behaviour. The basis of Marvo’s magic is that people need unrealistic hope to survive – that without the mist blurring their perception of the world, everyone would turn in despair to suicide. That’s a bleak message.

In fact the whole novel is quite bleak. Bleak characterisation of people. Bleak message about humanity. Bleak outlook on life. I’m not sure which genre the novel has been placed in from a marketing perspective, but for my money this is a horror novel through and through.

The main character, Marvo, and his companion Andra are complex characters, equal part sympathetic and repellent. The writing is in parts visceral, especially when discussing Andra’s fascination with bodily waste of all kinds. All in all it was very difficult to feel a connection with any character in the book, but that sense of being an outsider actually worked quite well when I sit back and consider the story as a whole.

The ending was good, closing the loop on the questions that were raised throughout the novel and certainly consistent with the characters as they were portrayed.

This is a thought provoking piece of writing. Recommended.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.


Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

8 thoughts on “Mistification by Kaaron Warren – review”

  1. Great review. I think the book also looks at story and truth, asking the questions, how important is truth, and how important is myth/story? Marco tells stories to console. He spins a person's reality in another way. He argues, and the book implies, that stories are essential to our lives and that the world can't exist without them.

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