38. Magic Street by Orson Scott Card. 397 p. Published June 2005.
Strange things have begun to happen in a small African American suburb of L.A. Under the influence of a homeless stranger, Byron comes home to find his wife magically pregnant. The homeless “Bagman” takes the baby, cleaning the event from the family’s memories. The baby is found by Ceese, a young boy of the neighborhood. While at the hospital, Ceese is approached by a strange woman, and manages to resist her magical suggestions to kill the child. The baby, now known as Mack Street, is adopted by Ceese’s neighbor and Ceese spends his young life raising Mack.
As Mack grows, he begins to find that he can see the secret dreams of his neighbors – and through them can grant their deepest wishes. But when a girl in the neighborhood is almost killed as a side effect, Mack swears not to use his powers again. Because while he can grant your deepest desire, the power will twist it into a fate far worse than any other.
As he grows older, Mack becomes a fixture in the neighborhood. Everyone knows him and he’s welcome in almost every home for supper. While wandering the area, Mack discovers a secret house, only visible through the corner of his eye. While there he meets the same homeless man and discovers a doorway to Fairyland. But when The Bagman is attacked, Mack must reveal this world to Ceese and enlist his aid to save the strange man. Mack and Ceese soon discover that this troublesome vagrant is, in fact, Puck. As they begin to research the Faerie through the works of Shakespeare, Mack comes to understand that he is a changeling – one created by Oberon in an effort to remake the world into one for the Fairie. Now, unable to trust even himself, Mack must team up with allies both Fairie and human to try and save the people he has come to love.
As a modern invocation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Magic Street serves to bring Shakespeare’s characters into contemporary fantasy. Even more amazing, Card uses many of the same plot points as the classic comedy, but in a new, more literal manner. Card’s reflection in this manner actually enlightens us more about the original play, and the role dreams have as an interaction with magic. Another interesting exchange involves Ceese and Mack questioning Puck on Shakespeare. They are told of the playwright’s tortured existence at the hands of Oberon and how the play itself came about. With a modern twist, Card develops a story that is both gripping and deeply reflective on the original work.
Even without the connection to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Magic Street stands as an excellent work of modern fiction. With Card’s singular ability to develop a world, this novel is both mystifying and stunningly revealing. Mack himself is puzzling while simultaneously deeply insightful, and as the main protagonist, provides a suspenseful narrative. Every chapter bring the reader a little closer to the truth, a little closer to the connection with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, without revealing anything until Card is ready.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Other Reviews of Magic Street: Wishes in the Night