Reviewed December 17, 2006.
Razorbill (Penguin), New York,
2005. 271 pages.
One of the
beginning writers have is what my friend calls “exposition hell”—trying
the reader everything about the world you are creating, and
writing a boring beginning. Justine
Larbalestier doesn’t have that problem at all with her first novel. She leaps into the story, driving us wild
with questions. Why does Reason Cansino
want to run away from her grandmother’s house? Why
have she and her mother been on the run from her
grandmother for all
of Reason’s life? How did her
grandmother get hold of her now? And why
does Reason call her a wicked witch?
arrives at her
grandmother Esmerelda’s house, things aren’t quite the way her mother
them. But something strange is happening
with the locked back door. The author
continues to feed us little bits of information about Reason’s mother,
enough to increase our curiosity. I love
the passage, when Reason meets Tom, a boy who lives next door to
Esmerelda. This chapter is told from
“‘My mother’s mad.’
“‘Yeah? Mine too.’
“‘No,’ said Reason. ‘I mean really
“‘Yeah,’ said Tom. ‘Mine too.
She kept trying to kill herself. Then
one time when I was little, she tried to kill me and
too. So she’s in Kalder Park
“‘Wow. My mother’s in Kalder Park! Sarafina tried to kill herself too.’ The girl seemed amazed by the coincidence,
which struck Tom as weird. If she was
Mere’s granddaughter, she should know it wasn’t a coincidence.”
mother has always
insisted that there is no such thing as magic, even though Esmerelda
use it. That’s why she gave Reason her
name. (And it’s prettier than Logic or
Rationality or Intellect.) But Reason
finds out that maybe her mother is wrong when she finds herself in a
city in the middle of winter, away from her hot Australian summer.
isn’t quite like
any other I’ve ever read. The magic here
is disguised by ordinary life, and it has a terrible price. Essentially, those who use it must make the
choice: Magic or madness?
Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund. All