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Magic or Madness (Magic or Madness Trilogy) Hardcover – March 17, 2005

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 630L (What's this?)
  • Series: Magic or Madness Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Razorbill; First Edition edition (March 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595140220
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595140227
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,018,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 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

From Booklist

*Starred Review* 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 © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By terryannlibrarian on December 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Despite the fact that I was utterly disappointed to find out that this book is the first in a trilogy (I didn't find out till the cliffhanger ending and I like to read series books all together), I really enjoyed this book.

The chapters alternate perspectives between Reason, Tom (the evil/not evil grandmother's apprentice) and Jay-Tee (Reason's friend/enemy in NY City). The 3 teens often contradict each other which makes the different points of view all the more real.

Reason has spent her whole life hiding from her grandmother who is a witch. R's mother doesn't believe in magic and raises her believe only in the rational. When her mother goes insane, R is taken by the authorities and placed with her grandmother. R quickly finds out that magic is real when she steps through a door in her grandmother's house and finds herself in New York City. The book is fast paced and mysterious. It is difficult to figure out who is on Reason's side and who is plotting against her, even to the end of the book. The teen characters are authentic and well developed and while the adult characters are a little more shallow (fairly typical in teen books) there is the promise that they will become more developed in the coming books.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Liz who Reads on May 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
THis is a gorgeous book. I'm not a young adult (just a regular old one, I fear) but this book made me wish I could have found this story when I was a 13 year-old girl -- I would have loved it. The blending of magic with real-world adolescent issues creates a memorable, delicious story -- easy to read (impossible not to, in fact) in one sitting. I can't wait for the sequel. In the meanwhile, I'm buying it for every young girl I know...
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Magic or Madness does a nice job of plunking us down in mid-story, giving us a sense of early momentum that seldom pauses the rest of the way. Reason Cansino has been kept on the move in the Australian bush for most of her 15 years, in order, her mother says, to keep her safe from Esmeralda, Reason's dangerous grandmother. Serafina, Reason's mother, has filled Reason's mind with stories of Serafina being held captive as a young child in Esmeralda's cellar, of Esmeralda's animal sacrifices and dark rites all in the name magic, which she impresses upon Reason, doesn't exist. But now, having seemingly gone from simply strange to truly crazy, Serafina is Institutionalized in a Sydney mental hospital and can no longer protect Reason, who as the book opens is being taken to Esmeralda's house by the "witch" herself.
This sense of coming into the story mid-stream does a good job of adding a sense of history to the ensuing story, as well as a feeling of suspenseful urgency. Her mother's tales weren't completely true, Reason finds out early enough (the house for instance is bright and airy rather than gothically dark), but neither are they completely false (something is buried in the corner of the cellar).
In an attempt to run away, Reason walks through a door and somehow ends up in New York City. Magic, therefore, does exist, and its existence, its effects on her family and herself, its temptations and dangers, all play a major role from then on. Along the way to trying to learn some answers, Reason meets several youths of her same age who may or may not practice magic and may or may not be her allies. The adults she comes into contact with do practice magic, but once again, their motivations and trustworthiness are unclear.
The strengths of the book are many.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By AndrewN on June 21, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first of three books, this story follows a young girl discovering her family's secret, the need for true friends and the awareness that adults are not perfect. The plot takes place in present day Australia and New York. The differences between the cultures makes for an enjoyable read.

A perfect book for young teens, of both sexes, and adults. Justine Larbalestier is a wonderful talented new author. You won't be disappointed starting this series.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Robinson on April 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Magic or Madness is the first book in a new trilogy by this Australian author. The book starts with Reason Cansino, a 15-year-old girl on her way to live with her hated and feared grandmother, Esmerelda. Reason and her mother, Sarafina, have spent years on the run, hiding in the Australian outback, moving from small town to small town, so that Esmerelda won't get her hands on Reason. However, Sarafina has had a mental breakdown. While she is in the hospital, Reason is forced to live with Esmerelda.

This is a difficult adjustment for Reason because Sarafina has spent the past 15 years telling her terrible things about Esmerelda, who is supposedly a witch who eats insects, and performs hideous animal sacrifices. Reason finds herself conflicted because Esmerelda appears normal, and turns out to have a beautiful home, and to act as a mentor and teacher for Tom, the teenager next door. Meanwhile Sarafina, in the mental hospital, is clearly NOT normal. Reason doesn't know what to believe.

Reason's mother has assured her that there is no such thing as magic. Sarafina has raised Reason to believe in the strength of numbers and logic and reason. And yet, Reason starts to notice strange things about herself, her grandmother, and about her family history.

Eventually, Reason finds conclusive proof of the existence of magic, as she steps through a doorway and finds herself in New York City. There she finds a friend, Jay-Tee, who wants to help Reason. Or does she? Nothing is as it seems, and Reason, Jay-Tee, and Tom must each struggle to figure out who to trust, and what to do.

The viewpoint in this book shifts between Reason, Tom, and Jay-Tee, in alternating chapters.
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More About the Author

I am an Australian-American writer. My latest novel is Razorhurst, which takes place on a winter's day in 1932 when Dymphna Campbell, a gangster's moll, and Kelpie, a street urchin who can see ghosts, meet over the dead body of Dymphna's latest lover, Jimmy Palmer. The three of them tip the balance in a bloody underworld power struggle. Razorhurst publishes in the USA in March 2015.

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