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Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace - Book Review Rating

The Bottom Line

After the success of Big Fish in novel and film form, Daniel Wallace joined the growing group of talented Southern storytellers to watch. With Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, he continues to strengthen his ability to concoct tales that feel and sound like folklore, this one cloaked in themes of identity and the tales we tell to try to make life less tragic.

  • Charming storytelling style

  • Multiple story perspectives
  • Intriguing mystery

  • Underdeveloped supporting characters
  • Narrative slows as tale draws out until the underwhelming end

  • Who is Henry Walker? A world-famous magician or broken down illusionist? Who really knows?
  • These questions are just the beginning to unveiling the illusion of this illusionist.
  • Listen as Henry’s unique friends tell their versions of the story of who Henry Walker was and how he became the legend he is.

Guide Review - Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace - Book Review

“I think it’s better to know what we can about people, to see beneath their skin, especially when it’s about our own family – sometimes the most mysterious people we know.”

In Big Fish, Wallace first separated the father and son with fantastic storytelling and then united them in the end. With Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, he comes full circle by showing that fantastic storytelling can unite people in the beginning, then eventually separate them from the person they thought they knew in the end.

Rudy the Strong Man, JJ the Barker and the Ossified Girl recount how Henry the Negro Magician tragically lost his beloved sister, Hannah, and then gave his soul to the devil who taught him magical tricks, helping Henry to change his course in life and marvel the world with death defying antics.

With this intriguing premise, Wallace skillfully wrestles with themes of identity and how we shape our own histories. While the introduction is fascinating and carries the magic of new characters and new places, the story begins to wane as reveals are given. Growing disinterest isn’t helped by Wallace’s variety of supporting characters, whose names are unique, but whose voices sound too alike and only fill the story to keep the narrative moving.

In the end, sympathy for Henry is what drives the reader to finish the novel and discover the truth. This is a tragic tale, not one suited for mid-summer reveling under an ocean sun, but at the break of fall when the leaves start dying and dark nights come quick.

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