Mix two parts Shakespeare, a chunk of Christianity, a splash of Gilgamesh, and a whole lot of Orson Scott Card into a bowl and you come up with Magic Street, Cardís latest fantasy novel - a novel that holds all the character traits of Card while at the same time being significantly different than his previous novels. In this tale of faeries, miraculous births, and battles of good versus evil, Card places his first African-American protagonist at the center of it all.
Born of mystical origins, Mack Street is raised by a nurse named Uralee Smitcher and Cecil Tucker, the young boy who found Mack abandoned by a drain pipe when he was born. The wishes of his neighbors plague Macís dreams throughout his childhood and every time he wills them to happen, the wishes always turn out perverse. But as Mack grows older, his life in Baldwin Hills, a middle-class African American community of Los Angeles becomes even stranger. He discovers a portal to the land of the faeries and meets Puck and Titania, two faeries whose true bodies are entrapped by Oberon, the King of the Faeries. It is, of course, Mackís destiny to free them from their prison.
As tales go, the story lives up to Cardís reputation in all respects but oneóthat one exception is his use of race. In the afterword, Card explains his reasons, influences, and assistants in writing a tale about African Americans. While his reason seems admirable, his use of race still remains suspect. Particularly in an audiobook, where voices can be manipulated to ďsoundĒ like a stereotype (or stereotypes) of a certain group or culture, writing an entire novel about characters, identity, and lifestyles of another group is mired even further. His writing overall does not come out as blatantly racist, but at times, characters, dialect, and even his social commentary upon further analysis bring up some subtle fallacies about his perspective.
Mirron E. Willis delivers a strong performance with a well-rounded voice to cover all the characters. At times, the voice he chooses for particular characters feels dubious in regard to African American portrayal. He also loses consistency with a few of the characters on occasion. The grossest error in this production manifests in the sound editing. In at least three spots, a clip was re-entered into the narration. The sound and tone of Willis changes significantly enough to question if it is still him or someone with a similar voice. The switch really halts oneís listening because the characters no longer have the same sound or emphasis. These blatant transitions should have easily been picked up by any proof-listener. But the overall quality of the narrator should not be overlooked. Willisís voice enwraps the listener so well that it is in these deviations one can truly appreciate his talent. Orson Scott Card reads the afterword in a decent voice.
At its essence, Magic Street provides listeners with an enjoyable tale from an established storyteller. An intriguing cast and interesting blending of various folklore and myths add to the fun, with the narration topping off what, for the most par,t is a good production.