Thursday, August 20, 2009

Magic or Madness: Throwback Thursday

Magic or Madness
Justine Larbalestier

Today is Throwback Thursday at Taste Life Twice. My post this evening is about discovering a read by coming through a backdoor. While I had heard about Justine’s work, I had not read her. I’ve only recently begun reading fantasy and knowing nothing about her work, let’s just say I wasn’t tripping over myself to get to one of her books. Then the Liar controversy broke, and I spent a lot of time at the author’s blog. Talk about a roundabout segue. Reading Justine’s views is what spurred my interest in her work. I’m pretty passionate about issues that matter to me and if there is one way to impress me, it’s to hear someone express how passionate she is about what she believes. Reading Justine’s views convinced me that that her characters were smart and resilient female leads. That Justine writes people of color characters, characters who are underrepresented in literature, is a bonus.

The first in a series, Magic or Madness is the story of a teen named Reason. Reason has been raised to embrace only the logical, to be independent, resilient and at all costs not end up in the care of her grandmother, Mere, an evil witch. Life with her mother, Sarafina has been a nomad’s experience but they are close and at fifteen, the threat of being taken by her grandmother is coming to an end or so Reason believed. Then Sarafina suffers a breakdown and Reason is sent to live with the woman she has been warned against her entire life, and she discovers that magic is real.

I really enjoyed this work first because it’s well written. The dialogue is natural and it flows easily. Even with the different cultural references and dialect, the reader doesn’t get hung up on unfamiliar terms because the context is clear. The secondary characters are fully fleshed out. No stick figures propping up the main character. I really like how the author treats magic; it is real but not something so far-fetched that neither the characters nor reader would reject it. She doesn’t try to explain it other than to illustrate that its evidence confirms it is real. Her whole life Reason’s mother has told her that sane, logical people don’t believe in nonsense like magic. But when Reason walks through a door, she finds herself in a reality she can’t deny and can’t explain. Reason begins to re-examine lessons her mother had told her were about the logic of math and reason. She realizes what Sarafina had really taught her was how to protect herself from forces that Sarafina refused to embrace.

For a work that is part of a larger series the closing isn’t a forced cliffhanger instead it’s a logical conclusion to the beginning of a new chapter for a girl who has discovered a realm she thought didn’t exist.

I read this almost in one sitting. Great pacing and development fueled my marathon session. I was anxious to see how Reason would adapt. I was frustrated with how naïve she could be and it was clear that while her mother did everything to protect her, she failed to realize that the life she gave Reason only delayed an inevitable truth she’d have to deal with. Reason struggles to accept her gift, but she grows. She accepts she has to learn how to master good and evil. I’m looking forward to book two. If you don’t know this writer’s work, you should. Discover magic.


zettaelliott said...

This looks good! I've got How to Ditch Your Fairy on hold at the library--will check this one out next.

Taste Life Twice said...

You made this sound so good! I think I'm going to just go back and read all of Justine Larbalestier's books.

Eva said...

Sounds like fun!

susan said...


It's fun but not silly. I really don't care for fluff.