Arthur Burdon is due to marry his fiance, Margaret Dauncey. The pair have the misfortune of meeting Oliver Haddo, a self-styled magician and pompous ass. When Arthur assaults Haddo, the Magician hatches a plan to ruin Arthur's life in the most insidious of ways...
The Magician is a tale of revenge, seduction, and things of that nature, written by Maugham after he met Aleister Crowley. It's pretty much a horror novel, honestly.
Oliver Haddo is a revolting character that made my skin crawl and his seduction of Margaret was a little hard to read about. Arthur, Susie, and Margaret were also well drawn, flawed characters.
For a novel written in 1908, The Magician was surprisingly readable compared to many books of that era. The writing was lush and descriptive without being overly flowery and still felt pretty accessible. Haddon's occult knowledge and abilities were also very well done, not terribly flashy and somewhat believable. I have to think the way magic was depicted influence Susan Clarke'sJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
The only strike that I can readily come up with against this book is the ending. I felt it was a little on the anti-climatic side and kind of a downer.
The Magician is a surprisingly effective horror novel for being over one hundred years old. I may have to give old Maugham another shot sometime soon. Four out of five stars.