Reviews provided by Syndetics
School Library Journal Review
Gr 7-10-Australian author Larbalestier has wrought beautiful and fearsome magic in this novel, the first in a proposed trilogy. Reason Cansino has spent her life with her unusual mother in the bush, moving frequently, keeping to herself, and learning how to guard against her bizarre grandmother, Esmeralda. When her mother goes insane and 15-year-old Reason is sent to live with Esmeralda, she starts to question all the stories her mother has told her. Is Mere practicing magic, which Reason's mother insisted was not real? Why have nearly all her ancestors died young? When Reason digs up a dead cat in the cellar and finds the key to a locked (magic) door, she escapes her increasingly frightening grandmother only to find herself halfway around the world in New York City, weak, in danger, and befriended by the mysterious Jay-Tee. Authentic teen voices from two continents reveal the fast-paced events and the conflicts faced by youth when powerful (and predatory) adults seek to take advantage of their ignorance. Readers will especially identify with Reason as she struggles to accept her identity and establish autonomy. Larbalestier's sense of place and refreshing exploration of magic as a force for both good and evil make this novel unusual. By turns a fantasy adventure and a thoughtful examination of relationships, this radiant gem stands alone, but expect readers to be impatient for the rest of the trilogy.-Melissa Moore, Union University Library, Jackson, TN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 8-11. In this fierce, hypnotic novel, character, story, and the thrumming forces of magic strike a rare, memorable balance. Reason is both the name of its 15-year-old Australian protagonist and a badge of defiance: Reason's mother champions rationality and deplores witchcraft, especially the smoke and mirrors practiced by her own mother, Esmeralda. When Reason's mom plunges into insanity and Reason must go to stay with Esmeralda, the wary teen, armed with only her survival instincts and a lucky ammonite fossil, attempts to stave off her grandmother's witchy influences. Then she steps through a door in Esmeralda's kitchen and emerges in New York City. There, as she grapples with the undeniable evidence that magic is real, she is drawn into a terrifying entanglement with a cruel older witch. Reason's prickly first-person voice alternates with that of Esmeralda's gentle apprentice, Tom, and Reason's tough New York friend, the magically gifted Jay-Tee. The teens' distinct, frequently contradictory narratives intensify readers' concern for Reason and their desire to understand her circumstances. Readers looking for layered, understated fantasy will follow the looping paths of Larbalestier's fine writing, as graceful and logical as the coiled chambers of Reason's ammonite, with gratitude and awe. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2005 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Fifteen-year-old Reason has spent a peripatetic life with her mother, Sarafina, who claims she was abused by her own mother, Esmeralda, a believer in magic. When Sarafina has a mental breakdown, Reason must go live with Esmeralda--and finds out that magic really does exist. Australian author Larbalestier's promising first novel in a planned trilogy is complex and original. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.