Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review: The Magic Circle by Jenny Davidson

So this book combines my love for academia and academic settings with something I know very little about but find absolutely fascinating - LARPing.  For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it stands for Live Action Role Playing.  The stereotypical LARPer is playing a "real life" version of a game like Dungeons and Dragons, complete with costumes and pretend sword fighting.  The Magic Circle takes the idea of live action games and puts an academic, and very dark, twist on it.  It follows the story of three graduate students, all of whom are interested in game theory and creating live action games that will educate the players.  However, when Anders, one of the girls' brother, gets involved, things take a very dark turn.

It's definitely smart and well-written, but I'm not really sure who the ideal audience is.  I think the author went too academic for most people who would have an interest in role playing, but I'm also not sure how many people who want a very academic treatment of game theory would find the author's version of LARPing.  Something about it was me.  I think what it comes down to is not that there are any specific writing issues, but that I just can't imagine who the ideal reader for this book is.  I wouldn't recommend it to my friends who love literary fiction and I also wouldn't recommend it to friends who read thrillers.

Entertainment Value
Again, something just didn't click for me in terms of being entertained.  The beginning was slow and contained a lot of the background information necessary to the story, but the presentation was somewhat lackluster.  It was too formal for my taste - I know background information is necessary when you're addressing an academic topic that isn't common knowledge, but it wasn't presented in a way that made me want to keep reading.  It's a short book, but it took me several days to really develop an interest in what I would normally read in a day or two.

I feel like I haven't highlighted the positives of the book, which are that it IS very smart and the focus on game-playing in an academic setting is quite unique and interesting.  For me, however, it all boils down to audience.  As I've said many times before, I try to think of my ideal reader friends when I review and what I would tell them.  I also try to think of ALL the people I know who read my blog and whether or not I think it appeals to another reader with a different taste than me and my reading twins (triplets?).  But in this case, I just can't think of a person who I think would particularly enjoy the book.  I usually have a clear idea in my mind of "Oh, ____ would love this book."  In this case, I can't come up with an audience for it.

A big thank you to TLC for giving me the opportunity to review this one.  As always, please click here for a full list of reviews to get a balanced idea of how others felt.


  1. Sounds like a pretty niche book. I've played Dungeons and Dragons, some even when I was in college, but never had any interest in LARP, so probably not for me, either. :(

  2. I can actually think of several college professors of my acquaintance-- and a couple of very smart LARPing friends of mine-- who would probably love this book. :) Most LARPers I've met are actually quite brainy. Thanks for the review.

  3. It does sound like this book would appeal to a somewhat specific audience, but based on the good things you have to say it should definitely appeal to the "right" readers.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!