Caves of Buda

Written by Leah H. Cutter
Review by Mary K. Bird-Guilliams

Hungary is an atypical setting for novels in the English language market, thus here the author has opened a whole new cultural avenue for what could be called the extreme end of the magic realism spectrum – part of the novel takes place in the real world, and part of it in a magic-overlaid reality. The author’s first book, Paper Mage, does much the same with Chinese mythology. Caves of Buda is backed with research; several pages at the end give sources and websites for following the various aspects of the novel, which is always a sign that the author cares about accuracy and credibility, even if magical elements are an integral part of the plot. The novel opens in the last days of World War II, and although most of the action takes place in present times, the critical events of the ΄40s play a big part in the plot. Centering on the caves of the title, these are conveyed to the reader by a series of character flashbacks, or “transportations.” If it sounds a little awkward, it is, and it’s the only criticism I have regarding the author’s style. There are more than enough wonderful Hungarian customs and folk sayings, character development, thoughtful insights and plot action to make up for the effort of following these shifts. The grandfather, his granddaughter Zita, and the magician Ephraim are the main characters, battling demons as well as those more ordinary beings that keep us from reaching our potential. A thoughtful, rewarding book for those that like something a bit unusual.