By Tommy Wonder & Stephen Minch
Price: $90.00 to $100, depending on where you shop.
Six hundred and sixty-nine pages (not counting the well-wrought introductions by Max Maven and Eugene Burger), illustrated by Kelly Lyles, 7″ x 10″ cloth hardbound with a elegant dust-jacket. Clearly typeset and well laid-out.
Every time I look at this set of books I am filled with wonder. Tommy Wonder. And what an ecstatic pleasure, no—make that honor, it is. These books are quite simply the most important tomes published on magic. Perhaps you think I'm making an overstatement. In reality, I've probably made an understatement….
These books were created with passion, published with passion, and will inspire passion in every thinking magician who studies them. About half of each volume consists of magic: effects; routines; moves; and utilities. The other half is theory. That's about three hundred and fifty pages of magical thoughts, musings, philosophies, chastisements and inspirations!
First, I'll cover the magic. Magic indeed. The effects are vibrant. The methods are ingenious. The designs (both mechanical and artistic) are exquisite.
I'll tease you with some of the effects…. Imagine a diminishing fan of cards that just shrinks. No closing and re-fanning—no adjustments or alterations—just a eerie sense that the fan is getting smaller and smaller as you stare at it. How about a self-contained, instantly resetting Wild Card where the cards are openly shown as they change, and are examined by the spectator as they change. A torn and restored card that is completely restored at the end, utilizes only one card, and has a built in belly-laugh for a finalé. The watch in nested boxes in a lesson in development and growth.
Three methods are detailed, each evolving from Tommy's ever more stringent conditions. They give us an insight into Tommy's thoughts and analysis. The progression is fascinating to study, as it shows how a master moves forward, rather than stagnating, or being satisfied with the good rather than the great. I'm genuinely sorry that Ididn't see the third method before Iread it—I'm sure that it would have flabbergasted me. The Ring, the Watch and the Wallet is a genuine treasure. The Zombie is light years ahead of any other method. The birdcage will shock audiences as well as the potential manufacturer. And the utilities are unearthly. If you have any interest in a secret card fold, the Hold-Out, the Pendulum, Reels, or Topits, then Tommy's “refinements” are the inside work that you're looking for. And then there is Tommy's ground-breaking Cups & Balls routine. Aside from no reset, no “pocket trips,” and no extraneous final loads to conceal, the routine is the most incredible performance of Direction (Tommy's correction for the word Misdirection) I've ever witnessed. At the end, there is a sense of closure, of wonder and of magic.
In all, there are over fifty technical items in the books. But the quantity isn't as important as the quality—the worst items are on a par with the best items in most other magic books. These are the cream of a dedicated lifetime of work condensed into a mere seven hundred pages….
Now for the theory. Ahh, the theory. Tommy has written the best theory on magic, and its all here just waiting for you to digest and cogitate on. These are not hard and fast rules to be doggedly followed. These are instigators of thought. If you have already pondered the depths of the theoretical side of magic, these ideas will pull the rug out from under your feet and send you farther than you could have thought possible. If you've never thought about theory in magic, then get ready to have your mind opened so much that the world is your brain surgeon.
Tommy uses a sharp scalpel with a fine point. He doesn't mince words or pull punches. Many of his concepts will start arguments and begin debates. For some readers this will be painful—but then growth sometimes is. Tommy's analogies are crystal clear without being asinine. Some of the philosophies will fit you like a glove. Some will inspire you. Some will make you laugh. But above all else, they will make you think—and that is what this is all about….
Not many magic books are published in anything other than black and white. Few of these titles deserve such an honor. The Books of Wonder does. Stephen Minch has tastefully highlighted each page with a dark cyan. The drop capitals, chapter frames and page numbers are all delightfully accented with the secondary color. The end-leaves are a pleasant illustration of Tommy surrounded by his magic. The dust-jacket is an excellent example of simplicity. Instead of the ever curling film laminated jacket used by every magic book publisher today, it is a textured paper that has a fine feel to it. Ironically, the elegant cover illustration is of Tommy's stage act, one of the few things that isn't in these tomes. Perhaps there will be a volume three one day?
I could spend pages raving about the magic and theory in these books, but that would only waste your time, when you could already be reading the actual books themselves. Trust me, if you love magic, then you will love these books. You will learn from them. You will be invigorated by them. Its the closest thing to a cathartic experience in print for a magician. Tommy has invested his life in magic, and it has paid him back immeasurably. This experience and love of magic has culminated in these books. And now they exist on their own, just waiting for you to explore them…. Get the Books of Wonder, devour them, study them, endlessly re-read them, absorb them, live them—they will change you (and magic as a whole) for the better.
My Highest Recommendation Ever. Period.