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“The best part of seeing the world is that one sees one’s soul. The bigger your world, the freer you are,” Mangus the Magician. City of Magic

City of Magic

Midnight Magic #3

by Avi
AR Test, Teaches About Culture

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In the third installment of Avi’s Midnight Magic series, Fabrizio and Mangus the Magician are back for a final adventure. It is Pergamontio, Italy in 1492, and King Claudio and the tax collector call the elderly Mangus to them. As Pergamontio is losing money, Mangus must find the “magical” book about numbers written by Franciscan monk Luca Pacioli. If Mangus and Fabrizio don’t succeed in their mission, they risk death. The biggest issue: the book – and the monk – are in Venice. 

City of Magic mirrors the first book, Murder at Midnight, in a few ways. The king is especially superstitious and requires Mangus to sort out any foreign entities that may enter the kingdom. In this case, accounting has become Mangus’s new domain, which Fabrizio and Mangus realize is not something they understand. Since Mangus is elderly and in poor health, they are reluctant to take a long and arduous journey to Venice. The tax collector, like the other villains of the series, is obviously evil. The similarities to the first book did make certain plot elements, like the villains, feel a bit repetitive. 

In this installment, Fabrizio is less wide-eyed than in previous ones. However, he has become more interested in earning respect for using his illusions and tricks. As a servant and a child, he doesn’t have the same access to power that Mangus the Magician or King Claudio have, so he sometimes makes bad choices because he’s looking after his interests – in this case, being respected and honored by others. Fabrizio pressures Mangus into traveling to Venice. While there, Fabrizio realizes that he’s made a series of horrible mistakes and tries to atone for them by saving Mangus.  

As the characters enter Venice, the reader learns that Venice values secrets and money more than anything else. In many ways, it is a different world than Pergamontio, including the secret Black Hoods who act as an undercover police force and take people to prison. As Fabrizio is liable to give away excess information to strangers, he inadvertently gets Mangus arrested. Fabrizio also gets several other characters wrapped up in his adventure. The difference in location adds interest but also shifts the tone in a slightly darker direction. 

Similar to the first book, City of Magic has many historical references, including the Franciscan monk Brother Luca Pacioli, who during his lifetime was a philosopher and friend of Leonardo Da Vinci. Avi provides further historical notes at the end of the book. As usual, the story’s pacing is fast and upbeat, which moves the characters along at breakneck speed through the mystery, weaving in and around the narrow Venetian streets. Fans of the previous two books will enjoy this one as well, and they’ll find  

Fabrizio’s journey into maturity is compelling. Young readers will identify with Fabrizio’s desire to be respected for his intelligence and ultimately prove himself useful, even if it sometimes gets him into  trouble. Learning how to gain this respect is something readers and Fabrizio can learn through the course of the book. This was a solid new installment to the series, even if it reuses some key ideas from the previous books. Readers who want to be drawn into another magical series should read The Magic Misfits Series by Neil Patrick Harris.

Sexual Content  

  • None


  • Fabrizio and Mangus enter Venice and are not greeted very kindly at the immigration port. A man warns them of another man lying at the base of one of the columns, saying, “he’s dead. Executed for breaking our laws.” Fabrizio looks at the man initially and only thinks that he’s sleeping. Other details of this body are not given. 

Drugs and Alcohol  

  • None 


  • The tax collector shows up at Mangus’s home and demands that he come to see King Claudio immediately. Fabrizio comments to the tax collector that his master no longer practices magic, which is illegal, and the tax collector responds, “I don’t give a fig what Mangus does.” 
  • Light language is used throughout. Terms include fool and stupid. 


  • Mangus the Magician no longer practices his magic, but Fabrizio does. Fabrizio notes that Mangus refuses to teach him magic. Fabrizio says, “[Mangus] claimed he didn’t know any. How exasperating. How annoying. How regrettable. If I’d known even a bit of magic, I would have done all manner of marvelous things.” 
  • Fabrizio says he once learned that “if you don’t cover your mouth when you yawn, evil spirits can slip into your body.” He believes in many superstitions like this and occasionally brings them up. 

Spiritual Content  

  • City of Magic is set in 1492 Italy, in the Kingdom of Pergamontio. All the characters are Catholic and will frequently make exclamations of God’s name or saints’ names, and they will pray in times of fear. Mangus’s wife Sophia, for instance, exclaims “Dearest Saint Monica” and crosses herself when the king summons her husband. 
  • Fabrizio and his new Venetian friend Bianca hide out in a church during what Fabrizio notices is “Midnight Mass.” Bianca notes, “I come here often and pray…I like to be alone with Saint Antonio.” She prays for her father’s return. 
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“The best part of seeing the world is that one sees one’s soul. The bigger your world, the freer you are,” Mangus the Magician. City of Magic

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