The Magician of Hoad

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Where will your destiny lead you?

For as long as he can remember, Heriot Tarbas has been plagued with fits, headaches, dreams, and nightmares that make him feel as if a part of his very self is being torn away. His visions are only whispered about in his quiet life on the family farm. But when the King of Hoad hears word of his powers and seeks him out to be a member of the royal court, it becomes clear that Heriot has a gift, and a valuable one. While Heriot unwillingly learns ...

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The Magician of Hoad

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Where will your destiny lead you?

For as long as he can remember, Heriot Tarbas has been plagued with fits, headaches, dreams, and nightmares that make him feel as if a part of his very self is being torn away. His visions are only whispered about in his quiet life on the family farm. But when the King of Hoad hears word of his powers and seeks him out to be a member of the royal court, it becomes clear that Heriot has a gift, and a valuable one. While Heriot unwillingly learns to use his mind-reading and other abilities to serve the king as his most trusted advisor, four remarkably different lives—that of a Hero, a Magician, a noble girl, and a Prince—weave their way, for better or for worse, toward his. When their paths finally converge in the midst of political upheaval, hand-to-hand battles, and burgeoning romances, Heriot must decide how he’ll choose to use his magic—and what his destiny will be.

With a complex cast of characters set against a majestic land, award-winning author Margaret Mahy weaves her magic in a fantastical tale exploring the meaning of truth, freedom, and loyalty to one’s greater destiny.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* “Mahy’s reputation for writing compelling fantasy is evident in this intricately woven tale . . . once begun, there may be no stopping until the reader has closed the book with a satisfied sigh.”—Library Media Connection, starred review

“Mahy has created a unique bildungsroman, complex and challenging, yet richly rewarding. This novel should prove deeply satisfying . . . Another excellent work from the masterful storyteller.”—School Library Journal

“[An] epic quest for identity . . . wrapped up in terror, romance, surprise, and suspense” —Horn Book

“A highly successful fantasy. . . . Heriot’s magic owes as much to the logic of dreams and surrealism as it does to the traditions of Tolkien and genre fantasy.” – Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Hans Christian Andersen Award–winner Mahy serves up a highly successful fantasy concerning Heriot Tarbas, a young man subject to fits and prophetic dreams, who believed that “something ravenous was feeding on him and tearing him into two.” Heriot is soon sent to the capitol to become the Magician of Hoad, serving the king by reading the minds of courtiers and diplomats and creating magical entertainments. He must also deal with the treachery of Carlyon, the Hero of Hoad (the king’s ceremonial co-ruler); the eccentricities of the king’s three sons, two of whom may be mad and one of whom is in love; and his own growing attachment to Cayley, a feisty gutter rat of uncertain parentage and gender. Mahy (Maddigan’s Fantasia) is a master at creating odd but compelling characters and Heriot makes a fine, somewhat fey protagonist. Although Hoad is a fairly generic medieval kingdom, Heriot’s magic owes as much to the logic of dreams and surrealism as it does to the traditions of Tolkien and genre fantasy. This is a lovely tale that should thoroughly please the author’s many readers. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)
VOYA - Shari Fesko
A young man with unique gifts looking to find his place in the world is at the center of Mahy's latest fantasy title. Heriot Tarbas is a seemingly normal teen except for the fact that he has visions that plague his dreams and make him feel as if he is torn in two. It does not take long before word of Heriot's talent travels to the king and he is summoned to become his new magician. Mahy has an incredible gift for creating believable fantasy worlds, and Hoad is no exception. She also does a skillful job of making Heriot a character to whom teen readers will relate, for despite his magical abilities, he deals with normal teen issues of self acceptance, fitting in, and the fear of being alone. In addition to Heriot, there are three other well-drawn characters whose stories unfold along with his: young prince Dysart is often referred to as "mad"; the intelligent and independent Linnet who find herself inexplicably drawn to Dysart; and Cayley, a poor girl from the streets to whom Heriot feels an unexplainably strong connection. This contemporary coming-of-age story with a dash of romance and a fantasy setting will attract a variety of more sophisticated teen readers. Reviewer: Shari Fesko
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Heriot Tarbas bears his scars inside, scars from attacks that he can barely describe and that have left a part of him detached and ragged. One day this part, which Heriot comes to call his occupant, awakes and reveals astonishing powers. In the land of Hoad, a bearer of such powers is recognized as a magician, and when a magician is discovered, he must work for the king. Heriot comes to work at the king's side but not before running afoul of the Hero, who harbors treacherous thoughts. Heriot also meets Dyshart, the mad prince third in line for the throne, and the two instantly recognize in one another a strange inhabitant of their own dreams. Heriot never quite feels at home in the capital city of Diamond. He struggles with his own frayed identity and is buffeted by the thoughts and desires of those around him, some hungering for peace, some for power, some for glory, and some for love. In Diamond, he befriends an orphan, Cayley, who has a strange draw for him. Action and politics color the story, but it is really the internal worlds of Heriot and others that give it life. Mahy has created a unique bildungsroman, complex and challenging, yet richly rewarding. This novel should prove deeply satisfying for readers willing to accompany Heriot on his journey. Another excellent work from the masterful storyteller.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Kirkus Reviews
Abstraction and surrealism pull this fantasy almost all the way into the adult section. Heriot, a farmboy, wrestles with nightmare-like visions. They alienate him from his family, but when a King's Lord claims Heriot as the King's Magician, he runs away, wishing to stay home. Nevertheless he reaches the King's city and becomes the Magician anyway, beginning a multi-pronged exploration of fate and inevitability. Fascinatingly, Hoad's two power positions, King and Hero, are each both a human man and a mythical symbol. These living icons supposedly keep the land stable but actually inspire murderous ambition. Action unfolds slowly; Heriot spends from age 12 to his mid-20s seeking what he's meant to be, which, when finally realized, is anticlimactic. A tight misery plagues the handful of main characters, and their emotional alienation may distance readers who struggle to understand the many unexplained images. (Readers may also be puzzled to see Heriot, described as a copper-skinned, black-haired boy in the text, depicted as a brown-haired, light-skinned boy on the cover.) Some deep and quenching revelations arrive, finally, but this poetically cryptic prose is for readers who prefer adult fare. (Fantasy. 15 & up)
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
Margaret Mahy is well-known for her fantasy books and this one incorporates some of the best of what she is known for: well-rounded characters who are not always what the reader expects, unique approaches to magic and its use, and creative playing with the whole concept of fantasy. Heriot Tarbas, the youngster who will eventually become the Magician of Hoad, is plucked from rural obscurity and thrust into the political and personal webs of the Hoad royalty. Befriended by Dysart, the youngest prince of Hoad, Heriot, nevertheless, feels as if his life is not his own and that his powers are obscured by many people and things he simply does not understand. A chance encounter with a street urchin named Cayley provides Heriot with a much-needed friend and ally, but even this relationship is unsettling when Heriot realizes that Cayley is hiding something from him. The world Heriot knows is shaken when the heir to Hoad decides that peace is boring and that he must create turmoil to satisfy his personal desires. How Heriot, Cayley, Dysart and others unite to save themselves and Hoad rounds out this complex tale. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416978084
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication date: 11/2/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 411
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 1010L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Mahy has lived in New Zealand her entire life. A former children’s librarian, she decided to become a full-time writer in 1980. From picture books to YA novels, the age groups for which she writes vary as much as the characters in her stories. She won the British Library Association’s Carnegie medal for The Haunting and The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance. She has also written such books as Alchemy and Maddigan’s Fantasia. An author whose books have received many accolades and praise around the world, Mahy was awarded the Order of New Zealand, the highest honor a citizen of that country can receive, and in 2006 she was announced the winner of the International Board on Books for Young People’s Hans Christian Andersen Award, given to a living author whose works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature.

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Read an Excerpt


When he came through the gate, Heriot found the kitchen courtyard was full of women, but that did not surprise him. During the terrible wars vaguely called “history” in which Hoad and its neighbors, the Dannorad and Camp Hyot, had advanced, clashed with one another, and retreated bleeding, Heriot’s family had lost most of its men. His cousin Nesbit, a survivor of the last battle, was the farm’s oldest man at thirty. On this occasion, however, the courtyard was not altogether without other men. Heriot could see a very small male cousin, a baby in his mother’s arms, and the Traveler men, along with a tomcat so sure of himself he had stayed behind to watch the visitors after other cats had fled. Strange and glittering in the sunlight, the Traveler men wore padded jackets and round hats made either of sheepskin or quilted silk, hung with enameled beads and tin charms, clothes more suitable to the mountains they had crossed two weeks earlier than to the plains. Around their strong throats hung chains, strung with mirrors the size of coins, beads of agate, carnelian, and tiny irregular fragments of lapis lazuli.

Great-Great-Aunt Jen stood among them, pointing and gesticulating. A cap with flaps coming down over her ears covered her gray hair, while her calm face, as round as a loaf of bread, brown and crusty, too, wore the expression of someone utterly accustomed to obedience.

“You’ll be our guests tonight,” she was telling the Travelers. “We’ll kill and cut up a sheep, and we’ll set up a fire in the big hall. I’ll send for the men out in the hills. You’re very welcome, I can tell you. It’s good to have you back.”

Heriot watched her with uneasy pride.

“There’s no need for it,” said one of the older Travelers. “No need for any special bother, that is. We’ve just come to see the tokens and the words, carrying on the custom, like.”

“We always welcome the chance for a party,” Great-Great-Aunt Jen replied, a little sternly, as if he had made light of her hospitality. Her dark, unexpectedly sad eyes fell on Heriot.

“You! Heriot!” she said to him. “Run and tell Nesbit and the others that the Travelers are here.”

The Travelers’ spokesman looked at Heriot with interest.

“He looks better these days,” he said.

“He was never sickly… well, not exactly,” Great-Great-Aunt Jen replied casually, though Heriot saw she became cautious as soon as his old trouble was mentioned. “He’s getting over it, whatever it was. Off you go, Heriot. Quickly, now.”

“Run fast!” said another Traveler. “I’d say it was going to rain.”

“Heriot could help to bring wood in,” cried Baba. “I’ll run for the men. And he hasn’t told the eggs yet.”

“What do you mean, he hasn’t told the eggs?” someone— a woman—asked from behind Heriot. “Told them what?”

“It’s a gift he has,” Great-Great-Aunt Jen replied, and once again Heriot saw on her broad face that familiar trace of—what was it—doubt, distaste? “He can tell which eggs will hatch cocks and which hens, and say how long ago they were laid.”

“Oh, he’s that way, is he?” said the speaker, as if she knew all about such talents. “He’s one of those. I thought you farmers had lost the gift.”

She stood in the gateway through which Heriot himself had entered a moment earlier… a young woman in the long, striped skirts and black short-sleeved smock, fastened down the front with buttons of bone, that all Traveler women wore. As they turned to look at her she came forward, walking freely in spite of her long skirts, while those skirts and the petticoats under them made a silky, sifting sound against her hidden legs.

“Azelma, our wise woman,” said the Traveler leader proudly, jerking his thumb at her. “She’s only a girl, but she has some of the old gift. She can see through walls, read closed books, and tell the future in patches. Even read minds. Of course she’s too bold, you can see that, but they do say that those who carry the gift burn up with it.”

“Heriot hasn’t got any gift,” Baba said. She hated to hear anyone else praised. “He’s slow.”

“I’m not slow,” Heriot protested. “I’m on my way now.”

“Not slow in that way… ,” began Baba. Heriot could see her straining to be off and away, over the fields and up the hill. His head filled with images of long waves and a dark island. His sister was longing to see the sea.

“What’s got into you, Baba?” Great-Great-Aunt Jen cried impatiently. “I’ve told you what you have to do. Now do it!”

“Great-Great-Aunt Jen… ,” began Baba, but Nella, who was married to Radley, Heriot’s older brother, tucked her arm under Baba’s, shaking her head. Heriot found his own arm taken and looked up, startled, into Azelma’s face.

“Here,” she said, talking across him to Great-Great-Aunt Jen and shaking his shoulder slightly as she spoke. “Do you know what you’ve got here? Does anyone out in the world know about this one? This one can read thoughts.”

“He’s not reading anything from anyone,” said Great-Great-Aunt Jen. “Off now! Off!” She clapped her hands in Heriot’s direction, and edging out from under Azelma’s hand, Heriot made for the gate.

“Well, talent or not, you’ve made a mistake this time,” he heard his mother saying. “He’s just an ordinary boy.”

“Ordinary?” Baba’s voice cut in. “He sees crooked and he has fits.”

But the disputing voices died away as Heriot ran, leaving behind not only the courtyard, his family, the Travelers, and the disturbing Azelma, but that past self… the one who dreamed over and over again of sitting on the window ledge, looking between rich hangings at a bed with a twisted fur coverlet, and a boy with mouse-brown curls, staring back at him from odd-colored eyes… one blue and one green. He had stared back with fascination and fear, as if Heriot, that dreamer on the wide window ledge, were not another boy but some sort of monster, and sometimes his lips had moved, but Heriot, dreaming, had never been able to make out what he was saying. Sometimes the boy had pointed and seemed to yell. Sometimes he had hidden his face in his pillows and refused to look out at Heriot. But that was all over and done with. It had to be.

© 2009 Margaret Mahy

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Magician of Hoad

    The Magician of Hoad is the story of a boy, Heriot, a boy that is discontent with his place in the world, has always seemed to not fit in. Then one day he finds out that he is actually so much more than he expected. He is a magician, but not just any magician. He is to become the official Magician of Hoad.

    But the boy, realizes quickly that he does not want his destiny to be determined by his new title. He wants to be the man he decides he wants to be. He realizes that his powers can be a dangerous thing and that some people would stop at nothing to control them, and if they can't, they would destroy them.

    Ultimately this seems to be a coming of age story. Heriot spends his life trying to find out who he really is and what he is really supposed to do. He realizes that neither of these have answers that anyone can give him but himself.


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