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A 12-year old kid with glasses, with the potential to be a great magician but doesn't realise it yet, who acquires a magic owl? This may sound like Harry Potter, but Timothy Hunter, the hero of 'The Books of Magic', first appeared in comic book form in 1990 - and he definitely isn't public school material.
Timothy is just skateboarding around the estate when he is accosted by four sinister trenchcoated characters and taken on a journey from the beginning to the end of time, with detours through occult corners of America and the hidden land of Faerie. Along the way he meets pretty much every occult-related character who has ever appeared in the 'DC universe'.
This is an unusually deep and rich graphic novel. Roger Zelazny's introduction points out its structural adherence to the "hero's journey" model which Joseph Campbell identified as the heart of all myths. It's funny, charming, and chilling by turns.
As an accessible introduction to "magick" this book rivals Alan Moore's "Promethea" series. Along the way you'll learn with Timothy why you should never give your real name, why it's inadvisable to step off the path once on it, and why you should never accept gifts from the Fair Folk.
The books of magic became a series. This is the only one written by Gaiman, though he acted as a consultant to the later ones. Despite some good ideas, the later books fizzle out rather, partly due to being set in London but written by Americans - British readers will not be surprised that, as usual, they can't do convincing English dialogue and convey little sense of place. But the original is unfaultable, with a last page that makes me catch my breath every time. Just do yourself a favour and buy it!
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Long before J.K. Rowling ever wrote about Harry Potter, there was another owl-toting, bespectacled young wizard with a destiny.

And somehow it doesn't surprise me that Neil Gaiman was responsible for that wizard's creation in "The Books of Magic." This brilliant four-part graphic novel is full of shadowy art, strange happenings and wild magic -- and while it was intended to be a story highlighting the more magical DC characters, it ended up taking a life of its own.

Timothy Hunter is playing alone in the street when he's approached by four men who ask him a simple question: "Do you believe in magic?" Obviously he says no, but after a brief demonstration of it, he reluctantly agrees to be taught in the ways of magic.

First, the Phantom Stranger takes him back on a first-class history tour -- the birth of the universe, the fall of Atlantis, the teenage life of the great wizard Merlin, the rise of magic in many different lands and its eventual wane. Then Tim takes a trip to to America with John Constantine to get acquainted with some of the more mystical creatures there... and ends up up to his neck in trouble

After that, Dr. Occult takes Tim into the world of Faerie, where he comes across a great sleeping king, gets caught by Baba Yaga, and shown Gemworld, Skartaris, Pytharia, a tiny glimpse of Hell, and a brief trip into the Dreamworld. He also counters Queen Titania, who seems to have a connection to him. And finally, Mr. E takes Tim into the future and shows him great wars, the return of magic, and the possible death of the world -- as well as his own future fate...

"The Books of Magic" isn't a comic book as you know it -- it's a journey across worlds and time, where an ordinary preteen boy discovers that he has the potential to be the greatest magician in the world. And though it was apparently meant to highlight various magical characters, Gaiman's story is more Joseph Campbell than comic book hero.

And Gaiman weaves a truly spellbinding, deceptively simple story -- he takes us into rivers of blood, goblin markets, a dying Earth, skull-faced kids, and even the childhood of a teenage Merlin. His dialogue is exquisite and rich ("Arthur sleeps in Avalon, and he sleeps here, as they all do. And perhaps he sleeps in your world too. Sometimes I suspect he sleeps inside a waking mind, waiting for the day to rise and free his ancient kingdom... Perhaps he sleeps inside thee, boy?").

I'm a little more split on the artwork -- somehow I just can't warm up to Paul Johnson's artwork, which makes Tim look very odd; and Scott Hampton's is of good quality but confusing to read. But John Bolton's artwork is absolutely exquisite (especially when he depicts the grandeur of a newborn universe, the towering angels and the ancient magics), and Charles Vess's tour of Faerie is some of the best work he has EVER done.

"The Books of Magic" is far more than it was intended to be -- a brilliant hero's journey through the worlds of magic. A deserving classic.
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on 27 August 2010
There may be some similarities between Tim Hunter and Harry Potter, but they are few, and even Neil Gaiman has the good grace to acknowledge that no work of fiction is created in a vacuum and that he and J K Rowling were both drawinfg inspiration form similar sources. Both characters are potentialy powerful magic users with glasses and a pet Owl but that is were the similarities end.

This book is less of a story than it is a journey through magic in the DC Universe. Tim is introduced to three eras of magic and the Faerie kingdoms by four well known magical practitioners of magic from the DC Comics pantheon in order to help him decide whether he wants to commit to a life as a wizard or just lead a mundane life. We are introduced to a series of fantastic and imaginative concepts as to how magic works in the DC universe and to various characters such as Baron Blood and Zattana. This book for me was more about ideas than a rivetting plot and I found myself pausing everyso often to just go over the concepts that were introduced in my head. The artwork is also a reason to pick up this volume as it contains the work of John Bolton, Scott Hampton and Charles Vess, who was wisely chosen to illustate the chapter set in the lands of Faerie.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone with an interest in fantasy, its not just for comic fans either as you dont need to know anything about the DD Universe to enjoy this read.
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on 24 April 2011
Of the 4 books of magic in this compendium 2 are actually stories with character, plot and action while the other 2 are meditations - 1 about the past, 1 about the future. Neither meditate very deeply and anyone who's read more than a handful of fantasy novels or comics will be able to predict the topics and observations made.

Fortunately the 2 books with stories are both are superb.

One is enlivened by the character of John Constantine, who Gaiman can write at least as well as Moore. Snide jokes, billowing trench coat, sarf landan slang and attempted murder every 10 pages. What's not to like?

The other is kind of a dry run for the "Midsummer Night's Dream" tale from "The Sandman". Faeries. Also known as vicious lying psychopaths. You just can't trust 'em...
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on 4 October 2011
A very good story, crafted by one of the most outstanding creative minds of our mean age and drawn by four different and diverse pencils. I strongly suggest to the HP fans to check this, just to get acquainted with the "originality vs Ms Rowling" idea.
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on 11 January 2014
Much better than Harry Potter:) The universe of Neil Gaiman is really fantastic. Jeg var en av dem som led av at norsk bladindustri kun ga ut det første nummeret av Books of magic.
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on 13 February 2014
Much to enjoy and re-read and re-look. A smart piece of work that affirms Gaiman's position as one of the most deviously-minded creators of nonsense this side of the grave.
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on 28 December 2012
Great product. Love it. Believe I have received value for my money. Great work amazon. Very pleased with the purchase. Would definitely recommend this to a friend.
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on 8 September 2013
Harry P's edgier predecessor, scripted by the incomparable Neil Gaiman on a fabulous whistle-stop tour of myth, legend and the DC Universe.
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on 11 December 2015
Enjoyed this but had to buy the paperback version as couldn't read the Kindle edition as the illustrations etc didn't fit the screen.
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