Dirty Magic

Dirty Magic

3.1 6
by Carol Hughes

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After a night of particularly strange and vivid dreams, Joe is visited by a girl who seems to be all gray, from her hair to her eyes to her clothes. Wherever she steps, the world melts away, replaced by a land of mud and rain. Telling Joe he must come with her if he wants to save his younger sister, who is gravely ill, the girl leads Joe through to her gray world,…  See more details below


After a night of particularly strange and vivid dreams, Joe is visited by a girl who seems to be all gray, from her hair to her eyes to her clothes. Wherever she steps, the world melts away, replaced by a land of mud and rain. Telling Joe he must come with her if he wants to save his younger sister, who is gravely ill, the girl leads Joe through to her gray world, which is in the midst of a twenty-year-old war. There Joe dodges bullets, fearsome motion-tracking tanks, and the secret police as he searches for his sister.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British novelist Hughes (Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves) imagines a dark fantasy world where bureaucracy reigns supreme. Ten-year-old Joe, in a fit of rage, tells his four-year-old sister, Hannah, "I wish you were dead!" Soon he has a vision of her lying in a hospital bed, and Joe is whisked away to a grey landscape by Katherine, who says she is his "fetcher" and must take him to his "guide." They fall into the care of the enigmatic Spider, an elderly blind man who knows far more than he lets on and harbors a major secret. Spider tells Joe he is in "a place between heaven and earth," scarred by a decades-old war between the clans of rival sisters. Joe must get to the Long City, where he can pass "back to your world or on to another." Along the way, he helps Katherine break her brother Tom out of a monolithic prison called the Druckee. But Tom too has secrets-connected to the oppression of a society of brilliant inventors called the Heathermen, and the missing third sister, imprisoned by the power-hungry machine-builder Orlemann. Hughes has a lucid imagination and paints a vivid, bleak and ruined world-magnetic mountains that can drive men mad, a lake so polluted it corrodes iron ships in seconds-and wraps up her challenging story with a well-concealed twist. Ages 8-12. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Diane Carver Sekeres
Who has not said words he wished he could take back? But when Joe's little sister Hannah is taken away in an ambulance, maybe to die for real, Joe does the only thing he can. Her body may be in the hospital bed, but something more important has slipped away, and he is going to find it. He knows that is the right thing to do when a fetcher shows up to take him to the land where Hannah has gone. It is soon horribly apparent that the task will be difficult and dangerous. The country is at war and Joe must judge who to trust to help him. He endures ceaseless rain, battles murderous machines, and even braves the sewers where outsized rats swarm. This marvelous, inventive story is wonderfully engaging, drawing the reader with the first words into an exciting and completely satisfying adventure.
VOYA - Rachel Wadham
After a very vivid dream, Joe is dragged from his home by a pale girl dressed in a military uniform. Convinced that he has been summoned to save his younger sister, Joe finds himself in a dark and rainy land enmeshed in a brutal war. With the girl, Katherine, Joe finds a guide whom he hopes will lead him to his sister. Soon the trio is dodging the secret police, who use strange mind machines on children, and outsmarting motion sensitive tanks along with other equally vicious machines. Almost immediately they find themselves embroiled in deeper mysteries, and it is ultimately up to them and a band of rebels to free the children who are prisoners and to unmask the real perpetrator of the war. Although the active plot is readable, the overall package is just mediocre. The pacing is uneven, and small but frequent references to earlier scenes further divide the action. Devices such as the use of secrets to control prisoners along with the sudden appearance of one of the princesses who was presumed dead all strain credibility. The characters are never fully realized, lacking the depth necessary to connect them to readers. The end is anticlimactic even with the revelation of the real reason that Joe was removed from home. A few readers might be drawn to the fast action, but librarians would do well to steer patrons to other works such as Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines (HarperCollins, 2003/VOYA December 2003).
School Library Journal
Gr 5�7
When Joe's four-year-old sister, Hannah, ruins his favorite magazine, he screams, "I wish you were dead!" That same night, an ambulance arrives at his house and Joe begins to dread that his hasty words are coming to pass. So when a girl named Katherine appears out of nowhere and offers him the chance to get Hannah back, Joe follows her into Asphodel, a realm between life and death that is locked in an ongoing war between two sister queens. The dreary, industrialized landscape is populated by deadly mechanical beasts and has a surreal aspect to it. Themes of war, propaganda, and profiteering are laced throughout this dark, intriguing Neil Gaiman-like fantasy that will have readers on the edge of their seats.
—Christi VothCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Joe is a frustrated older brother with a sister who gets into everything, including his models and Monster Magazines. Totally disgusted, he finally exclaims, "I wish you were dead!" and it looks as though his wish will come true when he wakes to find his sister vanished and his room turned into a muddy, rainy world. This land is ruled by three sisters beset by hatred and the use of war machines developed by "dirty inventor's magic." Here a fetcher, Katherine, arrives to lead him to safety and a guide named Spider. A blind man, Spider has magical abilities and, while Joe must be his eyes, Spider must give Joe clues about people and the route of their journey. In peril, Joe's ignorance of the kingdoms at war is balanced by his knowledge of mechanics, sense of direction and self-reliance. Sickened by the misuse of power and the abuse of children, he plays a critical role in the fate of the two kingdoms. Eventually, he comes to understand that "people are more important than things," as the intrigue of this fantasy world affects both him and the reader. (Fantasy. 10-14)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
518 KB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Carol Hughes learned all about great fantasy growing up in England. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters. The author lives in Los Angeles, CA.

From the Hardcover edition.

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