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Houdini's Last Trick (The Burdens Trilogy Book 0) Kindle Edition
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It would be hard for a book to miss with Harry Houdini as its main character, plus silent-screen beauty Mary Pickford, her dashing husband Douglas Fairbanks, and (to a lesser extent) classic comic Charlie Chaplin as costars—and this one doesn’t. Houdini’s characcter is developed in detail, showing both his skills and his inner conflicts, and he makes an appealing lead. Several of his (real or fictional) escapes, lovingly described, become wonderful action scenes.
The fantasy part of the story is mainly a setup for the idea developed more fully in the main books: in each time period a small number of people are born with the ultimate form of certain skills or attributes, which are gifts but also “burdens.” Pickford, for example, is the 1920s-1930s’ exemplar of Beauty, and her husband, action star Fairbanks, is the exemplar of Charisma. Houdini has the gift/burden of Introspection. Most of these people, themselves referred to as Burdens, use their gifts in relatively harmless ways, but some, such as the man who bears the burden of ultimate strength, have darker aims.
Houdini learns about all this when Pope Clement (fictional; Pius XI was actually pope during this period) suddenly appears in his living room and gives him two powerful magical objects: the Ring of the Fisherman and Newton’s Eye. (In fact, Houdini had had hints about his “burden” in a couple of meetings with Calamity Jane earlier in his career, but he hadn’t known what to make of that alcoholic oracle’s utterances.) The pope tells him that he must protect these objects from those who would misuse them, and in order to do so he will need to find and enlist the help of other Burdens. To do so, and to deal with the villain who wants to possess them, Houdini travels to Hollywood… and things go on very briskly from there.
Although I didn’t find the idea of the Burdens especially compelling in itself, I found the characters in the story very appealing (as they also are in the main series), and the plot moves along at a brisk pace. This should be an especially enjoyable fantasy for readers who are interested in Houdini and/or early Hollywood and its denizens.
I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. I will be reading David Khalaf for years to come. Hurry up and write more please!