The Prestige by Christopher Priest. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover

In Print
The Prestige is an atmospheric novel that evokes an age of Victorian storytelling—I just wish that Christopher Priest had used a less Victorian story structure.

This novel tells the story of rival magicians in late nineteenth and early twentieth century London. They are illusionist stage performers extraordinaires on the brink of a world of new technology. When one of these performs a seemingly impossible illusion, his rival embarks on a quest to discover a solution for performing this trick on his own, trying everything from the low- to the high-tech. Straddling the real and the unreal, this novel shows how the competition between these illusionists descends into a dangerous game that leaves both dissatisfied, despite careers of great renown.

Book Cover

On Audio
The point, ultimately of this novel, is to weave a series of events into a shocking conclusion. An admirable goal, certainly. However, the build-up necessary for the strands of this story to come together is a tiresome one. The story of these rival illusionists is told in two parts, each employing the Victorian convention of following the diaries of each man as his career grows. The problem with this approach is that the diaries—also in Victorian style—start at the openings of their careers, not in fact where the core interest of the story starts. As a result, this storyline flounders for much of the opening chapters. While the latter part of the novel moves at a good pace, showing how all the strands of the story finally weave together, this book ultimately suffers from a too-heavy reliance on the strands of the plot. As a result, the characters are not terribly unique or engaging.

This book is also available in unabridged form on audio. The reading is adequate, but suffers from a few, common audiobook flubs. Having one narrator for all viewpoint characters is often a mistake, though since both major viewpoint characters are male, it's not such an absurd choice here; however, there are also a few short sections between the rivals' larger narrative sections where our male narrator is telling the point of view of a young girl. Distracting and unconvincing. Another common audio flaw that crops up here is the British narrator's lame attempt at an American accent. I can forgive Neil Gaiman for this sort of thing, but a professional audiobook narrator? Where's Stefan Rudnicki when you need him?

Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

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