Magic or Madness

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Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , , | Posted on 9:38 PM


Rating: 2/5 stars

This isn't great fun for me; I don't like writing less-than-raving reviews (then again, I don't like reading less-than-awesome books). But I couldn't get into Magic or Madness so much. Part of it maybe was the description; although there were some beautiful passages about winter in NYC, and I did get a nice sense of Sydney as a city-with-green, most of it felt like pretty standard placesetting.

Briefly:
Reason has been taught two very important things by her mother, Sarafina:
1) Magic isn't real
2) Don't let your grandmother catch you.

This is because Reason's grandmother is a witch. Or thinks she is. And so Reason grew up rambling the Australian outback with her mother, learning rational explanations of the world around her and carefully avoiding all contact with the occult. Until her mother goes insane, and her grandmother finally catches her.

Oops.

Once Reason is trapped in the Wicked Witch's house, she discovers that everything she's been taught just might be wrong. After all, how else could she open a back door in Sydney, Australia and end up in New York City? And why is there a girl waiting for her there? And if her own mother has been lying all this time, who exactly can she trust?

The characters were fair enough -- Reason had some lovely quirks due to an upbringing on the run (a nagging habit of cataloging all available escape routes, for instance), and her math-oriented view of the world was also neat to experience. But I wasn't so in love with the jumping around to other characters' POVs. Not only did it not seem to add much besides filling in The Things Reason Cannot Know But We As Readers Should, it also made the main heroine seem kind of...flat, seen through everyone else's eyes. Of course, it didn't help that one of the other characters thought Reason was a total dimwit.

There was way too much cutesy 'divided by a common language stuff,' in my opinion -- yes, the first few Aussie/American slang clashes were bound to happen, but eventually the characters should cotton on a bit and stop being so surprised at This Foreign Tongue They Speak There.

I was probably expecting too much, really. This book was a setup piece to a longer series, so it obviously needed to lay the groundwork for further - more interesting - developments. In the meantime, worldbuilding was the main agenda; spinning out the main questions and shaking up characters' preconceptions, rather than actually answering anything or getting big questy things done. Like when Harry finds out he's a wizard, but before he actually gets rolling at Hogwarts with all the killer trolls and killer professors and scary frizzy-haired girls.

So maybe I'll put a hold on any final verdict for the series. It definitely wasn't boring in terms of 'OMGs They're All Just Talking,' or 'Ooh What's Behind This Door,' and at least the main character isn't like the Gorgeous Bitch in Blood and Chocolate (more on that later). With hope for later installments featuring more action and less talking/confused looks all around.
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