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The Magic Circle

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  3,906 ratings  ·  238 reviews
When her cousin is slain by an unknown assassin, Ariel Behn becomes the sole heir to a family legacy: a sinister cache of manuscripts that thrusts her into the deadly center of international intrigue--and an age-old enigma that spans the centuries. Whoever assembles and interprets the cryptic clues of this ancient mystery will possess the power to control the fate of the w ...more
Paperback, 552 pages
Published January 30th 1999 by Ballantine Books (first published 1998)
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3.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,906 ratings  ·  238 reviews

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Aug 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Oh, this book was so disappointing. I had big hopes after really enjoying The Eight. The central character, Ariel, was suppose to be a nuclear expert and a super code cracker but her character really lacks the mental strength required for both. Also, it felt like she was lead from event to event and never really took the lead herself. Plus the whole convoluted family inbreeding situation that unraveled over the course of the story was disturbing. The "ick factor" was too much for me. Then trying ...more
Virginia Cavanillas
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Old rate. Read on 2002. As good as The Eight.
Post-College favorite genre
The Magic Circle - NR
Kathleen Neville - 3rd book

Snake River, Idaho, 1989--Ariel Behn, a toxic materials expert at a remote nuclear site, finds her well-ordered life shattered when her cousin is slain by an unknown assassin. His shocking death leaves Ariel sole heir to a family legacy: a sinister cache of manuscripts that sweeps her into the deadly center of international intrigue--and a mystery that spans the centuries. . . .

Jerusalem, 32 AD--During the last week in the life of Christ, as the w
Nathan Burgoine
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
Okay, I read "The Eight," by this author, and I have to say, it was one of my favourite books, hands down, ever. "The Magic Circle," really really really fell short of that. Now, granted, I listened to it abridged on four audiocassettes, but it just didn't... flow.

Basically, the tale is thus: Ariel Behn, daughter of a really complex family structure, inherits something when her half-blood cousin (maybe) is killed, and that something might get her killed. So when her gypsy/german/rom/aryan/aborig
Sep 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
I thought this would be an enjoyable if silly read, but I had to abandon it after about fifty pages because my sensibilities could no longer stand the nonstop assault of trite bestseller/romance novel prose that passes for "writing" in its pages. I should have put it down when she mentioned a character's "mane of golden hair" on the first page, but I soldiered on. The section on ancient Rome set off all my History Professor alarms but, hey, it's just a novel. Still, when the main character falls ...more
Mar 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, read-2012
I had high hopes for this story when it started with the Sybiline oracles and Jesus, but what a horrible mess this story turned out to be. I slogged through thinking things would somehow tie together at the end, but all I was left with was a thrown together "conclusion" that was completely unsatisfying. Add that to the awful, incestuous romances and weird rationalizations for the Holocaust and you're left with a terrible read. I'm starting to be convinced that she didn't really write "The Eight" ...more
Sep 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book, and while I was not expecting literary genius, this was just bad. BAD BAD BAD. I can read just about anything, but I could NOT get into this book. Shampoo bottles posess better prose.
Beautiful, tragic, intelligent, rich heroine (trust me, her beauty and natural intelligence are mentioned ALOT) who despite posessing all these fabulous qualities, is incapable of making a decision with her brain instead of her vagina. UGH. Maybe fans of Twilight would enjoy it.
Aug 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Finally remembered the name of this book I read many years ago! I remember the plot sounded so intriguing on the cover but I was a bit let down by how the story unfolded. It's been too long to remember many details but I do know I liked the book, I just didn't love the book.
Carlos Mock
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville

The author of the book "Eight" uses a similar formula: two tales separated by time, but intertwined in mystery, as the means to tell a story.

The first tale deals with the last days of Jesus Christ from A. D. 32 to A. D. 61. As the world stands on the brink of a new two thousand year cycle, emperor Tiberius tries to decipher the clues of an age old enigma: the source of power that comes from objects like the spear that killed Jesus and the sword used by John t
Aug 06, 2014 rated it did not like it
One of the most tiring books I have ever read. Will not read again, I certainly wouldn't recommend it to someone else.
The points that anoyed me with this book where the following:
1. Random historical names were popping up like daisies, with some vague connection to the story.
2. Backround themes (such as secret meanings) that weren't properely explained.
3. Generic, unintresting heroine that somehow managed to be extremely talented, clever and beautiful (as described by the book) despite her lack
Nov 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm starting to get really pissed about GR losing my reviews...

I should know better than to post them only on GR.

So,  suffice it to say that I loved The Eight, and this isn't that. It isn't even a shadow of that. 

What's worse, it's ground covered by Dan Brown, and others, and Dan Brown did it better.
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book was just too convoluted to be believed. The Magic Circle follows Ariel Behn as she tries to discover the secrets hidden in her family history. And her family history changes quite frequently throughout the book. The historical flashbacks often didn't make sense, and didn't seem to have any bearing on the story. The ending really just doesn't seem to bring together all points of the story.
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this one before I read The Eight, and this book alone is the reason for my ardent desire of visiting Vienna, and an even bigger love for the Sachertorte!

Again, a great mix of historical novel, family matters, romance and secrets from the philosophical to the ethical. Quite a rollercoaster of a read!


Now re-read in 2017, it has lost nothing of its depth and all the Nazi references seem to be even more dire!
Jan 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Eh,it was good...However,I expected something...I don't know,something more.After The Eight,I thought The Magic Circle would be as exciting - if not more - but I can't say I was satisfied with the result.I guess what made me look over the amazing riddles and mysteries that had to be solved was the fact that,after some point,I grew tired of Ariel's mistake to keep falling in bed with a traitor.And I can't say that the whole kinda incest thing was thrilling me...
Aug 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
Too much history...blah, blah, blah. The story was interesting when the book was not refering back to Roman time, Druids, Caligua, Hitler, Greel gods. See my point with too much history, over half the book was useless to me.
Fay C Page
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
By the end of this long and convoluted book I was really starting to wonder what I was reading about. I'm still not sure who was related to who and exactly what the point of the story was. Very disappointing from a author that I have enjoyed reading in the past.
Mar 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: fiction
Having enjoyed Katherine Neville's previous two books as light escapism, I was looking forward to reading this one too. How on earth I managed to struggle on to the end I have no idea as it is absolutely awful and filled with 'New Age' drivel. Save yourself the time and don't bother.
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it
I like the intricacies of the book, but incest freaks me out.
Feb 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
This book is the Platonic form of bad.
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a hard one to place. Two and a half stars is probably more accurate, but given the limitations of a full star rating, it's just not good enough for three. For a tl;dr verdict, scroll to the bottom.

The back of the book made me expect a Da Vinci Code style thriller, with historical conspiracies and treasure hunts for secret knowledge. That aspect is there, but it gets almost buried under a very convoluted plot, buckets of dense exposition thrown at the reader with little to connect them, a
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it

That was a doozy.

I picked this one up off my mom's bookshelf because I love anything to do with magic.'s not really about magic. But it does have Jesus, Hitler, Pontius Pilate, Nero, Dionysus, Zeus, Joseph of Arimethea, Agrippa and Gaius Caesar, a man named Wolfgang, a girl named Bambi, and a Nez Perce Indian Chief named Dark Bear with a nuclear expert named Ariel as the main character.

Like I said, WHEW!!!

This is convoluted and I wanted a flow chart. I kept waiting for Rob
Kristy McCaffrey
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The Magic Circle" is an ambitious novel, and for that I commend Ms. Neville. However, it was a challenging book to read. I loved the heroine, Ariel, but the family relationships--and there are many limbs on the tree--became increasingly difficult to follow. By the end, I really had no idea who was related to who, and the romantic relationships between 'cousins' left me feeling a bit off-kilter. However, there's such an abundance of history here (lengthy backstory starring Jesus) and an odd side ...more
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to get into this book but it had two flaws that kept me from ploughing through no matter what. First is the ponderous amount of research to plow through and remember for the next installment of the Jesus story, the Ariel story. Secondly, the transition from one story to the next is bouncing like riding on a bumpy and circuitous dirt road. There is tension which makes me want to find out what happens but some of the plot seems a little too dramatic, a bit too thick to keep me read ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I love Katherine Neville. Her novels are like taking mini-history classes. This selection takes you through centuries of strife, conflict, and drama, centered in the Middle East and Europe. Like her other novels. this book has multiple narrators set in the 1990's and 30 AD. Her plot line is very complex and requires a few re-readings to be sure you are picking everything up.

This rates three stars due to some dry parts, excessive quotes that can be skipped over, and confusing plot lines.

There i
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While I love this author and her first book (The Eight) is on my all time favorite books list, this book tops that list. The Magic Circle is as intricate and detailed as The Eight, but the subject matter hits me even closer to home. If you like Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, you will probably enjoy this book. I highly recommend this to all kinds of people and re-read it about every 2 years (and I don't normally re-read books).
Elizabeth Grieve
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned-arc
I'm afraid I gave this one up several times as it was just so convoluted and it was very hard to keep track of who was who, the weird family tree etc. I liked the historical bits better, but the modern day part could have been much reduced to make a better story. The writing was good, just that the material was too dense. After coming back to it several times I finally abandoned it about halfway through.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital review copy.
Robin Rivers
May 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I wanted to love this book, especially since it seemed to key in on one of my favourite mystical sources - the Sibylline Oracles.

However, I had to abandon it 30 pages in as it read more like a history text than a story. Unfortunate, because I loved The Eight and this topic has incredible storytelling potential.

A real missed opportunity IMO.

(marked as abandoned)
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
The plot was far too complicated, nothing really seems to tie up with anything else, and we still don't know what it was all about at the end. I finished it because I wanted to get to the bottom of things, but I was sorely disappointed. I read it because I'd enjoyed The Eight by Katherine Neville, but I think this book was just a huge waste of time.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Too much of EVERYTHING, it makes it completely naive , pretentious and often unfocused.Also, all the characters seem to utter their words in quite similar ways. Moreover, Ariel, the main character is so incompletely put on paper and unconvincing, that , while reading the book, I often completely forgot about her.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-book
This is a good read. I was confused at times, but essentially got the story.
Although this is not as good as The Eight and The Fire, I would recommend reading it.
Be warned....this contains a very HIGHLY DISFUNCTIONAL FAMILY!
Overall a good book. I think the author needs to put in a family tree chart so the reader can follow the family line.
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Katherine Neville is an American author. Her novels include The Eight, A Calculated Risk, and The Magic Circle. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and she previously worked as a photographer, a model, a consultant at the Department of Energy, and a vice president of the local Bank of America.