I know a lot of people love this book. I can imagine even that some literary types, the same sort that would get sniffy about Harry Potter, might sing its praises and allude to some brilliantly evoked passage or other.
This is strange because this is also a book about a magician. It is set in a world a lot like this one a few hundred years ago where magic resides in smells – these can conjure, love, invisibility and all sorts in between. But where other books about magicians, such as JK Rowling’s, Jonathan Stroud’s, or Ursula LeGuin’s, use magic as metaphor or more incidentally to explore other ideas, this book has no other purpose. It demands that the reader accept the fundamental power of the magic of smell and to engage with a repellent magician in his quest for the most magical perfumes.
God above did I detest the whole sorry thing for the pointlessly silly exercise in silliness that it is. There are some vaguely interesting descriptions of perfume making but these are not enough to justify the effort. The characters are cyphers. It says nothing about the human condition.
So despite being a short book it gives a strong sense of being about 200 pages too long.
At least the advent of e-books mean that trees need never again die to bring this sort of ill-judged cow-pat of a book into print.
A book to avoid like pestilence unless you are a masochist or doing penance for some terrible deed.
Love it! Never read this book, never going to.
For a decent read that involves magical themes, check out Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series: well-drawn (and evolving) characters, humorous, and not afraid to take the piss out of itself.