I've never heard of Brian Moore, and the only reason I picked up this book is because I lived in Algeria for 5 years. The premise of a French magician being sent to Algeria on a mission for emperor Napoleon III in 1856 was intriguing. However, what might have been a really interesting story is spoiled by cardboard characterization and insipid prose. Each character seems to be a study of a certain type: bored, naive young wife who wakes up to the nastiness of the world around her, the distanced, self-absorbed husband, the dashing Arabist, the noble savage wise man, etc... Moore's descriptions of French court life and Algiers managed to sustain interest, and the set-pieces of the magic shows were quite good, but his subtexts on faith and colonialism are totally pedestrian. And when it comes right down to it, the whole notion that the "native" Algerians of the 1850s are likely to be dazzled into submission by a European magician's tricks is both ridiculous and offensive.