Magic is a staple of much fantasy literature -- but what if it was a limited resource that was rapidly running out? This is the basis for Larry Niven's 1978 illustrated novel The Magic Goes Away, which adds this new twist to a familiar setting.

The setting for The Magic Goes Away is an amalgam world, where magical lands, American Indians, and Atlantis all co-exist. Wizards were once feared -- doing everything from creating stable buildings to destroying armies -- but mana (the power behind magic) has been drained from the planet largely due to overuse. Magical creatures are dying, and spells can suddenly fail in areas where there is no more mana. Several magicians -- the Warlock, the Indian Clubfoot, the beautiful Mirandee, and the still-living skull of the necromancer Wavyhill, and the dubious Piranther -- have met, and Warlock reveals his idea to return to magic to the world. Then there's Orolandes, the non-magical soldier who feels guilt over his role in the Greek attack on and destruction of Atlantis. He sees the quest as a means of redemption; he's also a romantic interest for Mirandee, and a "mundane" who can survive quite well without the magic the others are desperate to replenish.

The Magic Goes Away is an enjoyable tale (though the comic book-style illustrations are quite unnecessary) of both sword & sorcery and a sort of environmentalism. While much of the adventures here are familiar to the genre -- giant monsters (and giants), magic travels, planning and betrayal -- Larry Niven shows his skill as a writer, both with the internal consistency of this magical world and his ability to combine fine description and original ideas. The Magic Goes Away is a trip into an interesting world where magic exists -- but perhaps not for much longer.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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