Magic Lessons (Magic or Madness, #2)

ISBN: 1595141243
ISBN 13: 9781595141248
By: Justine Larbalestier

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Fantasy Fiction Magic Paranormal Series Teen To Read Urban Fantasy Ya Young Adult

About this book

Fifteen-year-old Reason Cansino has learned the painful truth that she?like her mother, grandmother, and new friends Tom and Jay-Tee?must face a choice between using the magic that lives in her blood and dying young, or refusing to use the magic and losing her mind. Now a new threat leaves Reason stranded alone in New York City, struggling to control a power she barely understands. But could the danger she faces also hold the key to saving her life? "Magic Lessons" is a stunning follow-up to Larbalestier's debut novel, "Magic or Madness, " which earned multiple starred reviews and a spot on the Locus 2005 Recommended Reading List, along with being named a Best Book of the Year by "School Library Journal" and the Young Adult Round Table of the TLA.

Reader's Thoughts


Great book. I liked this one much better than the first book in this series. Once i started i didn't want to put it down. Can't wait to read the next one!


the second in larbalestier's magic trilogy. this book finds reason learning the terrible truth about magic users and their magic, they only have a certain number of spells before they die...and die young they do. she is forced to make choices that will shorten or extend her life and force her to grow up sooner than she should have to. then, surprise! there is an interesting ending that will be concluded in the third book! enjoy...they are great reads!


(part 1 of review)"Magic Lessons" by Justine Larbalestier is a 275 paged book. The main character in the book is Reason, Tom, and Jay-Tee. They are back in Sydeny after going through a magic door that goes to New York City. But, the door starts to shake and some odd shaped creature comes out of the door and attack Reason and every one else. After that, Esmeralda (Reason's grandmother) gives them their first magic lesson. Then at night in Sydeny the kids watch the door and when Tom and Jay-Tee are asleep the door shakes again and gets Reason, and then Tom and Jay-Tee wake up. Reason is back in New York and is helped by Danny (Jay-Tee's brother). But no one is sure who got Reason through the door without opening it.(part 2 of review) "Magic Lessons" by Justine Larbalestier is a 275 paged book. The main character in the book is Reason, Tom, Jay-Tee,and Esmeralda(Reason's grandmother). Right after Reason was saved by Danny, they went to his condo. Danny was suprized that Reason never watched T.V. or knew how a cell phone worked. After, Danny bought Reason some clothes to wear and it was night Reason could not sleep. She went in to Danny's room and then they had xxx. But in Sydeny Jay-Tee almost died so she ask Tom for his magic to stay alive. Then Jay-Tee found out that Esmeralda was dieing too. So they thought they could go through the door but when Mere (nickname for Esmeralda) touched the door something odd happened. When Reason was ready to open the door her Grandfather was following her. But Reason got in to the door in time. She found out how she went through the door. Her old ancestor wanted to get in to Sydeny and die there with his family. And in the end of the story Esmeralda finds out that Reason is pregnant.


Not as good as Magic or Madness, but good enough that I'll finish the trilogy.

Ian Wood

This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here.I rated this novel worthy!NOTE: UNHIDDEN SPOIULERS! Read at your own risk!Errata and clunkers:p100 "They didn’t burn everything else, but. Just left a pile of ashes. I added some of the chicken bones. But it hasn’t been noisy or violent since then. Now it just ripples." Seriously?!p118 "…every single person spoke completely different than her…" That's just clunky!The "Golem" was originally banana yellow, then it's remembered as being red-brown, "the same color as it was originally"?!! Hmm?Mere gets Jésus's magic and is able to fix her broken fingers, but when Tom gets a scrape she resorts to antiseptic and a Band-Aid®? Seriously? Clunky!Yes! It's Justine Larbalestier month! You didn't know? This is volume 2 in the Magic or Madness series. Volume one is reviewed here. Reason Cansino is now living (if not completely comfortably) with her grandmother, referred to as Mere, but whether as in 'Nightmare' or as in 'grand-mère' remains to be seen! Mere lives in Sydney Australia. Reason still visits her mother in the psychiatric home, and lives somewhat in fear of her evil grandfather, "Jason" (or Alexander - Jason Alexander!) whom she met in volume one. Her grandfather is a magic leech - that is, he has magic, just as Reason does, but if he uses it, he sets himself up for an early death (as does Reason). If he doesn't use it, he'll become insane (as will Reason). The only solution, so he and others believe (Reason disagrees), is to use it, but to prolong your life by leeching magic from other magicians. One of these is Jay-Tee, whom Reason met when she accidentally ended up on New York City after going through the magic kitchen door in Mere's house. Another is Tom, a sweet guy Reason met when she went to live with Mere.After a dangerous adventure on volume 1, Reason, Jay-Tee, and Tom are back with Mere, but Jay-Tee is dying, having been leeched almost dry by Jason. She has to take magic from Tom to give her a boost, which leaves him temporarily exhausted. Worse than this, someone is trying to force is way through the kitchen portal. At first they think it’s Reason's grandfather, but it turns out to be an ancient, all-but-inhuman ancestor of hers. This part of the novel was a really cool and interesting read, very well-written for the most part.Eventually this ancestor succeeds in pulling Reason back through the door into NYC. He's extremely powerful, but he seems not to want to harm Reason, but to actually help her, although she seems to be rather slow on the uptake in that regard, as indeed she was from time to time in volume one. She ends up in the freezing cold again in her pajamas. The ancient won’t let her back through the magic door, so she ends up with Jay-Tee's estranged brother who she briefly met when she was here the last time. There seems to be some wish-fulfillment going on here, in that Larbalestier frees Reason from her nomadic existence in volume one in the Australian outback, where she owned nothing more than a backpack, and delivers her into the luxury of her grandmother's house. Even in NYC, Reason enjoys the sweet comfort of Jason's accommodations for Jay-Tee in volume one, and of Danny's luxurious apartment in volume two.Reason decides to try and sniff-out the old man - since his horrible smell is easy for her to track - to see if she can discern what he's up to and why he's here. Why she didn’t simply ask him is unexplained. This part of the novel was not written at all well. I couldn’t figure out what Danny and Reason were supposed to have agreed they would do! Maybe it was just me because once I got past that confusing page, things made sense again. After being prevented yet again from going back through the kitchen portal, Reason discovers that the ancient stinky guy has put something inside her that helps her to track him without retching as the horrible nauseating stench he seems to trail behind him. It would seem he is trying to tell her something, but again why he doesn't simply speak - or put the information directly inside her head - is unexplained. She follows his path to a cemetery, which is evidently what he intended. Maybe his grave is there. This guy ultimately makes no sense in his behavior, serving only to be a deus ex machina plot-hole filler so... ok, I guess!I have to ask why YA authors never depict people being killed off by their hero? Jason Blake is pure evil. He shows up to drain Reason of her magic and steals a boat-load of it. Danny renders him unconscious, yet Reason never pulls her magic back from Jason. She doesn’t even get her share back, much less drain him and end the problem right there. Instead, she runs away. That's not even remotely heroic. At some point the hero has to put an end to the evil, period. Anything else is cowardice and stupidity. Danny and Reason at one point have him at their mercy but instead of stopping things there and then, they encourage evil to continue by running away. Not smart, but it does net the author a third volume, which frankly is a bit pathetic.No more spoilers! I finished this novel having had some issues with it, but overall I liked it and I do want to read volume three (which is just as well since I already have it to hand!). So what didn't I like (in addition to what I've already mentioned)? And why am I asking you? Larbalestier keeps tripping up her action by splitting the story up between Sydney where Jay-Tee, Mere, and Tom are, and NYC, where Danny and Reason are. That was annoying because it kept interrupting the action and larding-up the text with cheap and completely fake 'tragic' moments. I despise this 'cheap-thrill' kind of writing, so I was glad when it had to give way to a straight narrativeEventually it reached a point at the end of the novel where Reason is no longer the student but the master (mistress? Gender tropes in YA fiction!), so I guess Larbalestier achieved her stated goal in the novel's title. I was less thrilled about going into volume three after I’d read two, than I was about going into volume two after I’d read one, but I was still on-board with this series. It’s original and interesting - if a bit too indulgent of Le Stupide in this volume. That said I rate this a worthy read and I think it’s worth exploring what Larbalestier has to say in volume three.


Sequel to Magic or Madness. The one where Reason gets sucked through the magic door from Australia to New York by a mysterious old man who has insanely strong magic and never speaks. Man, this was a mess. Critical facts (such as the old man's relationship to Reason and Esmerelda) would be revealed by someone "just knowing." But other important things were beaten into the ground; we'd see something happen to Reason in New York, and then we'd have an entire chapter of Reason recounting it for Tom back in Australia, and Tom telling JayTee. Also, alas, all ambiguity has now been removed from Reason's relationship with Esmerelda.I won't be seeking out book 3.(Locus poll 2007: #3 YA SFF novel.)


As this second book in the Magic trilogy begins, Reason, Jay-Tee, and their friend Tom are on the Australia side of the magic door, having decided to trust Reason's grandmother Esmeralda and learn whatever she can teach them about magic. But the evil Jason Blake, still on the NYC side, won't let them escape so easily. When something evil seeps through the door and attacks Reason, they assume it's from him, but she instinctively knows it's something more mysterious. So, empowered with a new, weird magic, she sets off through the door in search of answers - and finds way more than she bargained for. Meanwhile, Jay-Tee's magic is almost used up and her time is short. Is there any way to get around their curse? Oh and I did NOT see the ending coming, although I probably should have!


Book 3 in the Magic or Madness series. This is a really interesting series and I like it and all but I think the books need to be longer - so much of the book feels rushed like there's missing information. It is a neat take on magic - that it's not as cool as people think it is. This is a YA series but it has appeal for adult readers also. Warning: this book does have teen sex in it one time. It IS relevant to the storyline and has to happen but it was still a bit surprising.


Not to my liking. That said, I think it would work well for its intended audience. The setting (Australia and New York City) and the magic are different enough to be intriguing and the pace and language are good. But the characters spent too much time not knowing anything and doubting what and whom they thought they knew for me to really get into the story. Part of this may be because Magic Lessons is the second book of a trilogy of which I did not read the first. But based on this book, I'm sure Reason, the main character, will find a way to fix the "my peeps are dying" problem; however, I don't care if she does and am not curious as to how.On a side note, it's an interesting choice to show generations of teen pregnancies without heavy-handed commentary about how awful it is. There certainly are themes to that effect, but it's never in the forefront.


Like the first book, the story and characters are okay. I still like the New York/Australia twist, but it's no longer novel. At this point, I'm finishing the trilogy just for the sake of completing it. I do applaud the author's willingness to deal with sex in this novel, though the brief mention of STDs felt like an afterthought. I suppose when the premise of the book is that women in this family die in their teens, unsafe sex is more or less a given.

Anne Osterlund

Life is hard. Especially when you are magic. For Reason and her friends, there are only two options: go mad from refusing to use their magic or die young using it.The answer, according to Reason’s grandmother, is to use solely a tiny bit every week. Magic Rationing.But then the door—the magic one that leads straight from Sidney to New York—begins to shake. Because something is trying to make its way through. Something with Reason’s DNA and the ability to pierce through her skin. And something that wants to make certain magic rationing isn’t even in her cards. Book two in the Magic or Madness series. I’m going to have to start budgeting for book three.


Continuing saga of Reason Cansino who was raised to believe that magic isn't real-only to discover that most of her family is magic. Chapters from Reason's point of view are written with Austrialian words and slang while those of her friends in NYC have an American slant. This is book one of a trilogy-and unlike many trilogies the story and characters are strong all the way through-I highly recommend all three books. Of course I love the idea of walking through a door from a warm "Aussie" summer into a cold NYC winter (and back).

Kat Alexander

Wow. There's so little that can be said about the book without spoilers... Still, it was fantastic.Magic Lessons continues the story of Reason, Jay-Tee and Tom, keeping the same fast pace as the last novel and further exploring the rules of magic. The trio have only just begun to learn more from Esmerelda when a strange phenomenon occurs with the door that none of them can explain. Soon, they're questioning the fundamentals of magic they'd just begun to except, namely the choice of magic-weilders: die young or go insane. My only problem with this one is probably the same as my problem with the first (which I haven't read in a while): descriptions can go a bit haywire, leaving the reader struggling to work out exactly what's going on. Still, Magic Lessons is well-worth the read.

Cindy Dyson Eitelman

This was the second book in the Magic or Madness trilogy, and I read it, but I don't know what to say. It went by so quickly.It lacked the suspense and the surprise. The ending was clearly a pause on the road to a guaranteed you'd have to read the third. I'd almost suggest--if this didn't have to be a teen book and therefore limited to 300 pages, the second and third books should have been combined.

Jennifer Wardrip

Reviewed by Jocelyn Pearce for TeensReadToo.comMAGIC LESSONS is the second book in Justine Larbalestier's trilogy, and it's just as wonderful and gripping as MAGIC OR MADNESS! In this book, there are just as many questions as in the first, as every answer Reason finds only leads to more questions. For everything that's resolved, there are five more things that I was anxious to find out as I read on! There is plenty of suspense in this book. Reason, Tom, and Jay-Tee have all stepped through Esmeralda's magic door into Sydney, leaving behind Reason's evil grandfather, Jason Blake, as well as Jay-Tee's older brother, Danny, in New York. They're being taught magic by Esmeralda, even Reason and Jay-Tee, though they're still not sure they trust her the way Tom does. They've had some bad experiences with magic, but they know now that they have to use it, or else they'll go crazy, like their parents. However, every time they use magic, they lose a little time being alive. Magic is not the blessing it is in other books; in the world Justine Larbalestier has created, it's more of a curse. The door between Sydney and New York is acting strangely. At first, they think it's because of Jason Blake, but it turns out to be something much more frightening and mysterious. They're not sure what it is, but Reason knows something about whatever it is that the rest of them don't: It's a Cansino. She and Esmeralda are related to it. One more thing: it's old. As in, centuries old. Reason isn't sure what to make of this information, but she doesn't trust Esmeralda, so she's not telling anyone. Then she loses her chance to share it. She is sucked through the door into New York. Reason's not as lost as she was the first time; after escaping the scary, stinking old man-like creature standing in front of the door, she finds Jay-Tee's brother Danny, and stays with him. She can't go back to Sydney; the old man, the Cansino, is guarding the door. She could always buy a plane ticket home (or, rather, Danny could buy her one; money is nothing to him, and she has none), but there are a few things keeping her in New York. One, she wants to find out more about the man guarding the door, and maybe do something to get rid of him if Esmeralda figures out what he is. Two, there's Danny... Sequels often don't live up to the high expectations set by the previous books, but MAGIC LESSONS sure does! It's just as great as MAGIC OR MADNESS. One thing that I like about these books is Justine Larbalestier's magic system; it's very original, and it seems more realistic that, if magic existed, it would have a price. That makes this much darker than a lot of books about kids who find out they have magical powers, and also adds some extra awesomeness to an already great book. The number of questions being far more than the number of answers also adds something to this novel. Even though I usually think that a book is made less wonderful by a cliff-hanger ending, I don't think that's the case in these books. First of all, the main conflict of the book is resolved, but, as all answers do in Justine Larbalestier's books, those resolutions bring new questions to be answered in the following story. Nothing here has been what it has seemed to be so far, but everything also makes perfect sense. Add this to great writing, wonderful characters, and brilliant ideas, and you've got an amazing trilogy! I absolutely cannot wait for book number three.

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