"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 only with 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." Booklist, starred review
Fifteen-year-old Reason's life has been spent wandering the Australian outback with her mother, Sarafina, hiding from her grandmother, Esmeralda (Mere). Sarafina told her about Mere's evil witchcraft and taught Reason how to protect herself. Now with Sarafina in a mental hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown, Reason must live with Mere. As she explores Mere's house, she becomes confused when neither the house nor Mere are as dark and sinister as she imagined. In a locked drawer, Reason discovers a key to a door which, when opened, transports her across the world to Manhattan where she is befriended by Jay-Tee, a teenager under the evil Jason Blake's control. Jay-Tee and Reason are torn between escaping from Blake and avoiding Mere who has come searching for Reason. The story culminates in a battle of magic between Blake and Mere and with Reason learning why her female ancestors rarely lived beyond age thirty and why Sarafina had her breakdown. Individual chapters are narrated by different characters, which is not always readily apparent. The book's tone interestingly changes between less threatening Australia and dangerous Manhattan where the hidden identity and power of Blake adds some suspense. A glossary helps readers understand Reason's colorful Australian vernacular. Actual magic takes a backseat until the end when the title's meaning is also revealed. Not another wizard-type book, this story is of a teenager's confusion. The book, geared to readers ages twelve through fifteen, is worthwhile for middle school and public libraries. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined asgrades 7 to 9). 2005, Razorbill/Penguin, 288p., Ages 11 to 15.
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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.