Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index



to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Three to See the King

Magnus Mills

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Three to See the King

Title: Three to See the King
Author: Magnus Mills
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001
Length: 167 pages
Availability: Three to See the King - US
Three to See the King - UK
Three to See the King - Canada
3 pour voir le roi - France
Zum König ! - Deutschland

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : fairly successful sand-swept, tinny fable

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 6/11/2004 Thomas David
The Guardian . 2/6/2001 Justine Jordan
The Independent A 16/6/2001 James Urquhart
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Summer/2002 Brian Evenson
The Spectator . 23/6/2001 Frank Egerton
TLS . 25/5/2001 Carol Birch
Die Zeit . 7/10/2004 Friedhelm Rathjen

  Review Consensus:

  Favourable, though some thought the ending a bit weak

  From the Reviews:
  • "Der Magnetismus, mit dem Michael Hawkins ausgestattet ist, wird von Mills mit großem psychologischen Feingefühl erzeugt. Es ist vor allem die Gestalt dieses messianischen Herrschers über alle Träume, aus der dieser spannende Roman seine Wirkung bezieht." - Thomas David, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The fragile community wobbles over the tensions between collective labour and individual aspirations, and the cycle of progress comes full circle. In his shifting, suggestive parable, Mills throws into relief the stark essences of leadership and individuality, community and solitude, progress and retreat. (...) Three to See the King shouldn't be a speedy page-turner, but it is; light reading with real depth, this is philosophy for fiction-lovers." - Justine Jordan, The Guardian

  • "Magnus Mills is artful in his use of tone and reference. Three to See the King is in many places only whiskers away from overt religious imagery, from the very title and cover of the novel through to the messianic destiny of Michael Hawkins ­ yet the novel retains all the eager anticipation of a child's story." - James Urquhart, The Independent

  • "The narrator and the prose are stripped and laconic, the situations absurd and comic, and the human relations at once vital and parodic. Like a happier and less existential Kobo Abe, Mills has an ability to render the absurd with a light touch that nevertheless preserves its profundity." - Brian Evenson, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "The successful way in which Mills uses Michael’s project to nuance the relationship of labourers and bosses is paradoxically only reinforced by the book’s unconvincing final couple of pages. Mills turns a surprise debacle into the basis for a homily advocating a self-sufficient lifestyle; yet this belies the complexities that have been teased out beforehand (...) But, overall, Mills not only makes this novel emotionally effective but also develops his idiosyncratic vision with wry intelligence and wit." - Frank Egerton, The Spectator

  • "Magnus Mills's writing has a deceptive simplicity. Though physical description of the characters is entirely lacking, each is clearly differentiated, and the initial cast of five is memorable and endearing. Less so are Michael Hawkins and those of his followers who have a part to play in the story. Because of this, the denouement is less successful than it might have been.(...) However, even if the ending is a let-down, most of this short, eminently readable novel is so likeable, so "sweet", as Mary Petrie might say, that one feels inclined to forgive." - Carol Birch, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Die Dämme brechen in dem Moment, da das so kunstvoll austarierte, in sich stabile Absurdistan in Bewegung gerät und unaufhaltsam Zäge einer Allegorie annimmt. Man mag sich anstrengen, sosehr man will: Die zweite Romanhälfte lässt sich einfach nicht lesen, ohne ständig Elemente einer allegorischen Geschichte über Masse und Macht, über den Einzelnen in der Menge, über Lebensformen, die auf Sand gebaut sind, und Illusionen, die wie ein Blechhaus zusammenfallen, darin zu sehen. Wenn Magnus Mills mit Sinn und tieferer Bedeutung hantiert, verkauft er sich aber eindeutig unter Wert." - Friedhelm Rathjen, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Three to See the King takes place in an unreal world. The nameless narrator lives in a tin house with no windows, in the middle of a sandy, "wild and blustery plain", miles from anywhere or anyone. He's lived there for years, happy in his seclusion -- which isn't a complete isolation. He has neighbours, and they come visit on occasion.
       A change comes with a woman, someone he hardly knows -- "a friend of a friend you might say" -- who comes and then stays. Her name is Mary Petrie, and he's glad to have her at least for the physical intimacy, if nothing else.
       The narrator has (or had) a dream -- or rather, since this a Mills-novel, a scheme -- which Mary reminds him of: he had wanted to travel until he came to a canyon and then settle there, in a house of tin. He settled in a tin-house (which he found abandoned) but only on the plain; he'd never found his canyon.
       He's not the only dreamer. He has several neighbours -- three, in particular -- and then there's also the figure of Michael Hawkins. Michael, especially, has big plans, and things change in the area when the narrator's neighbours move to be nearer to this messianic figure.
       It turns out, eventually, that Michael is working on a canyon project: "he's creating a canyone for us all to live in." If that doesn't sound ominous ... but almost everybody is quite enthusiastic about the idea. The narrator eventually goes to check it out, and even he is impressed by the enormity of the undertaking.
       A tin-house pioneer, the narrator (and his former neighbours) are looked up to: it's everybody's dream to live in a tin house. Which means things get more complicated when Michael decides on something else .....
       Some of the symbolism is a bit too simplistic. We all live in tin-houses, and the like: the narrator's difficulty in descending into the canyon, for example (it turns out he has vertigo) -- and then, of course, his difficulties getting out.
       Mary -- hardly always a voice of reason -- tells him early on: "It's not where you are that counts but who you are with", but it takes a while for that lesson to sink in.
       Mills creates a nice sense of mounting mass hysteria all along (culminating quite as expected), and the ill-fated canyon and clay project winds down in predictable fashion. The unreal setting is a bit hard to credit: it's not clear where food is obtained, for example, or what the outside world all these people are fleeing might be like. And the characters are oddly lacking in history -- or much motivation for practically anything. But otherwise it's a neat and fairly successful setting.
       The tin-house lifestyle and the narrator's lack of ambition are nicely expressed:

Existing in a house of tin was an end unto itself, a particular state of being, and time didn't come into it.
       The Michael-figure is cause for considerable turmoil, quite nicely done, if not fully convincing in contrast with whatever might have drawn these characters to this place in the first place. As usual, Mills nicely conveys an ominous atmosphere -- though here, by, for once, allowing for the actual explosion, it isn't quite as satisfying as in his other works.
       Well written, quite well-presented, but not entirely satisfying.

- Return to top of the page -


Three to See the King: Reviews: Magnus Mills: Other books by Magnus Mills under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of contemporary British fiction under review

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       British author Magnus Mills was born in 1954. He has written several novels.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2003-2012 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links