Rights are being declared, death is being dealt with support raised by the rhetoric of rights. So it was in France and elsewhere in the late 1700s. There are many ways to make this time even more dramatic. One, of course, is to write a rap opera about Alexander Hamilton. Another is to write…
A novel that adds magic to the revolutionary mix. That’s H.G. Parry’s A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians. It features many different points of view (PoV) and places. We start with Fina, a girl of six, being taken from Africa to the Caribbean as a slave.
We soon move to England to join William Pitt, then a twenty-year old lawyer concerned with a case about magic use. “Even Commoners are allowed to use magic to defend themselves,” he points out to a senior colleague. Other PoVs include that of Robespierre, thus giving us a French revolutionary perspective. Multiple PoVs can be confusing, but they are not here: it probably helps that many of the PoV characters are famous from history.
This is a big book in terms of themes: rights, slavery, politics, loyalty,… and magic. Parry mixes the themes well. For example, what limits can and should be placed on magic? Is magic use a right for those who have magic powers? How, if at all, should governments curtail the use of magic?
It’s also a big book in terms of pages: there are over 500 of them. I might have enjoyed the book even more had there been fewer: in particular, there is a lot of conversation.
Parry set herself a big task, and achieved her ambition. She blends historical character and fact with a magic system. I’m looking forward to the sequel, which I gather will be very France-focused. I don’t think we’ll meet Alexander Hamilton–who was by the way consulted by the authors of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. But perhaps a third volume might tell of the role of magic in the American Revolution?