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Gaiman's neglected classic
on 2 May 2004
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!