Justine Larbalestier–Magic and Madness

The What: Reason lived with her mother, Sarafina. Reason was raised on frightening stories of Esmerelda, Sarafina’s mother, who believes that magic is real and does terrible things in its name. When Sarafina loses her grip on sanity, Reason is forced to live with Esmerelda. She finds that what she was taught and what is real don’t always line up, but which stories were true and which were lies?

The Good: Larbalestier does a fantastic job with setting–Australia and New York are like characters. She also handles the story’s multiple narrators with great skill and consistent voices/dialects. And behold, it is a story whose protagonist is biracial, but it is not about race! Dear writers, editors, and publishers: we librarians LOVE to buy books like these. Make more, please! Anyroad, carefully-picked details and clear descriptions bring the story’s scenes to life. Larbalestier doesn’t just write, she practices the craft of writing, and it’s a pleasure to read her art.

The Meh: Not a whole lot happens in the first several chapters. Given the can’t-put-it-down pace of the later chapters, it would have been nice to have more action earlier in the story. Also, the ending. I literally yelped, “Whaa?!” when I read it. I know there are two more books in the series, but not knowing the significance of the ending (or whether certain important characters were dangerous to Reason) was quite frustrating. On the other hand, it’s a clever move, because I’ll definitely read the second one.

Hand It To: Teens who liked the “Harry Potter” series, Nancy Pearl’s story or setting readers, teens looking for a free trip to New York or Australia


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ari
    Jan 31, 2010 @ 21:56:22

    I really want to read this book. Hmm I like action in the first few chapters, but if there’s a good build up then I don’t mind. I really like the way you write your reviews, you break it down very well. And I’m always up for a free trip to Australia and New York, whoo hoo!

    Thanks for this review and for particpating in the POC Reading Challenge :)


  2. Jessica Neiweem
    Feb 01, 2010 @ 13:16:38

    Hi Ari! Thanks for the kind words :D When you read this book, let me know what you think (if you blog about it, I’ll see your response that way!) If you need help getting a copy, let me know.

    Thanks for making the POC Reading Challenge possible. I know it’s been taking some heat, but I really believe in what you’re doing. If you want testimonials, I’d be happy to write about the ways that it’s helped me already.


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