Magic or Madness (Magic or Madness, #1)

ISBN: 1595140700
ISBN 13: 9781595140708
By: Justine Larbalestier

Check Price Now


Currently Reading Fantasy Fiction Magic Paranormal Series To Read Urban Fantasy Ya Young Adult

About this book

For fifteen years, Reason Cansino has lived a life on the run. Together with her mother, Sarafina, she has moved from one place to another in the Australian countryside, desperate not to be found by Reason's grandmother Esmeralda, a dangerous woman who believes in magic. But when Sarafina suffers a breakdown, Reason is forced to move in with her grandmother in Sydney. The moment Reason walks through Esmeralda's back door and finds herself on a New York City street, she's confronted by an unavoidable truth - magic is real.This thrilling novel will bring readers through revelation upon revelation, leading to Reason's ultimate discovery of the price she must pay if she uses her magic.

Reader's Thoughts

Danielle Adams

Reason Cansino and her mum have been on the run from her evil grandmother her whole life, but when her mum goes mad and is hospitalized everything changes. Her mum told her magic wasn't real, her grandmother believes she is a witch, and that's why they were on the run. But when Reason walks out her grandmother’s back door in sunny Sydney and finds herself in a snowy New York City the only explanation is that magic is real. More than questions are awaiting Reason in New York City though. Larbalestier's technique of changing points of view between the different teenagers makes the plot so much more exciting, forcing you not to put the book down. The teenage characters are so realistic that young adult readers will feel instantly connected to them. A new portrayal of magic, where everyone has it but those who "are magic" have more than others, which can lead to deadly consequences, makes interesting developments. Young adult readers won’t be able to wait to read the rest in the trilogy.


Reason is a 15 year old girl who’s moved from place to place in the Australian outback every few months, on the run from Reason’s grandmother Esmerelda. Sarafina, her mother, attempts suicide, is hospitalized and Reason goes to live with Esmerelda in Sydney. Reason loves math, does Fibonacci numbers to calm herself and has always been told what an evil witch Esmerelda is. In Sydney she makes her first friend in Tom the boy next door, who designs fabulous clothes. Walking out Esmerelda’s back door, Reason finds herself in New York’s East Side. There she meets Jay- Tee whose magic is running and dancing. “Magic is real.…It made my head hurt.Magic is real. I am in New York City and it is Wednesday when it should be Thursday, morning when it should be night, freezing when it should be boiling, and magic is real.I opened the door in Sydney in summer, steeped out to new York City in winter, the opposite season on the opposite side of the world. One moment and everything had changed.If magic was real, then Esmerelda really was a witch. Witch as in magic, not witch as in bitch.”(

Jennifer Wardrip

Reviewed by Jocelyn Pearce for TeensReadToo.comReason Cansino has always been taught to fear her grandmother, Esmeralda. Reason's mother, Sarafina, has taken them all over Australia, mostly to remote Aboriginal settlements. Reason has only been to a real school once, but Sarafina has taught her lots of things, mostly math and some science. Reason has been happy with her life, but when Sarafina goes crazy--really crazy, as in trying to kill herself instead of her usual craziness consisting of things like making them walk in straight lines for days--all of that comes to an end. Reason is sent to live with Esmeralda in Sydney. She's expecting the dark, scary house of her mother's stories. The one where Sarafina's cat was murdered. The house where dark magic takes place--imaginary magic, of course, as Sarafina has always said that magic isn't real. It's too illogical. What Reason finds, however, is a spacious, light house, not at all witchy. There are no animal sacrifices in the living room, no bubbling cauldrons in the kitchen. That can't undo the belief that years of Sarafina's stories have created, though. Reason is sure that something is going on underneath the surface, and she's got to run away and get out of Sydney as soon as possible. She's got to rescue Sarafina from the loony bin where she's been locked up. Sydney's not all bad, though. Reason meets Esmeralda's neighbor, a boy about her age named Tom. She'll be sorry to leave him behind, but it looks like he's working with Esmeralda, and she's got to get away from the witch. Reason's escape from Sydney doesn't exactly go as planned. Instead of escaping with her mother and all of her supplies, Reason finds herself on a winter street in New York City, barefoot and with nothing, after stepping through Esmeralda's back door. She doesn't know how she ended up there, but she's grateful to Jay-Tee, the teenage girl who rescued her from the freezing, alien streets. She thinks that Jay-Tee is just a friendly passerby...But could there be more to it than that? What is going on? How did Reason step through a door from Sydney to New York? That's just not possible. What secrets are being hidden from her? MAGIC OR MADNESS is a wonderful novel from Justine Larbalestier, who's married to one of my favorite authors of all time, Scott Westerfeld. It's a fascinating story, and the way it's told is a little unconventional: some chapters are told in a first person point of view, in Reason's voice, and others are told in a third person limited point of view, from inside either Jay-Tee's or Tom's mind. These three different points of view could be confusing, but Justine Larbalestier pulls it off wonderfully. The story itself is quite a page-turner. I read this book when it first came out, and reread it after getting my own copy in paperback, and I loved it both times. The characters are all wonderfully realistic and interesting. Each answer Reason finds only leads to more questions, keeping suspense throughout the story. The writing is fantastic, and I'm really looking forward to the third book in the trilogy, MAGIC'S CHILD, coming in 2007!


I really was not a fan of this book. I thought Larbalestier's writing was just strange. Some of her sentence structure just made no sense and it got on my nerves. Then she jumped from first person narrative to 3rd, which made no sense to me either. I didn't add anything to the book only made it look unedited and just strange. I've never read a book that jumped back and forth like this. It would have been better had she just stayed with one style the whole way through. Also, you never start a book with a good feeling when you read the Authors note to the readers in the beginning and she actually has to explain things to you about the story. That is just not a good sign because if the story is good and the writing is good that should speak for itself and there should be no need for the author to go in to try to explain things to you. Also some of the character development was weak but it seemed to become stronger near the end of the book. I thought she did do a nice job of bringing the story line together at the end and really the story itself is interesting, you just have to get over her style of writing. I have to admit i almost gave up.I probibly wouldn't really recommend this one unles you really had nothing else to read. but then again, like the fool i am, i'll most likely read the other two of the series cuz that's just how i am. Can't start something and not finish it. Dang it! It seems though like the other two are hard to find though unless you order it online. not a good sign sense it a relatively new book.

Anne Osterlund

Reason’s mother is mad.Which means Reason has to move to Sidney, Australia. And move in with her grandmother.The Witch.Or rather, the woman who believes she’s a witch. And whom Reason and her mother have spent their entire lives fleeing.But as soon as Reason arrives in Sidney, she makes plans to run away.She just didn’t intend to run away through the back door. Using the hidden key.And wind up in the middle of a snowstorm in New York.Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness is the first book in a trilogy where reality is all about perception. And perception is sometimes faulty. But perhaps not more faulty than truth. I liked Reason’s special Gift for numbers. As well as the initial Australian setting. On to book 2.

Laura Martinelli

So, I hadn’t heard much about the Magic Lessons trilogy until after I had initially read Liar—up until then, my only experience with Justine Larbalestier’s work was reading How to Ditch Your Fairy and giving up partway through because while that book had a cool idea, the concept was clearly not that all thought out. And I think I can say the same of Magic or Madness. There’s cool ideas, there’s definitely a strong story set up here, it’s just that Larbalestier spends so much time on the set up that the majority of the book chugs along with not much happening and then oh hey! Climatic battle and we’re done. (Basically, it suffers from Trilogy Syndrome; I would really like to see this series in an omnibus format and see how it compares to reading the standalone volumes.)Because I do like what’s given here. I like magic systems that utilize science and math to explain how the universe works (the old-adage “Magic is just sufficiently advanced science”), I liked the characters involved, and I like that not only does magic take a toll on a user’s life in this series, but at such a staggering cost. But the problem is that it takes such a long time for anything to happen. Reason spends roughly a hundred pages trying to figure out whether or not her grandmother is trying to trick her, to seduce her into the world of magic, then BAM! She’s in New York….and spends the rest of the book being dragged around by Jay-Tee while people half-explain things to her. And I get that this book is setting things up for a larger trilogy, but I’m just not feeling it.It’s not that the book overall is bad. I like a lot what Larbalestier does here, especially with handling three different character POVs. It also helps that all three characters are pretty strong. I liked Reason’s natural curiosity and affinity for Fibonacci numbers (and foodie tendencies), but you could also tell how innocent she was, not only from Jay-Tee’s POV, but from Reason’s unsureness about herself. I loved Jay-Tee, not just because she felt like that she’s been through the most, but you could really see how she would be attracted to using magic. And I loved that she recharges herself through dance; the club scene where Reason watches her dance is a fantastic sequence. Tom is probably the weakest of the three, seeing as he probably knows the most of what’s going on, but I still liked that he’s a distinctive character in his own right. (I also love that he really wants to be a fashion designer.) And what really works for me is a lot of these character details don’t come from the personal POVs, but when the others are observing the character in question. Sure, it’s frustrating for Jay-Tee to take care of Reason, but we get to see how really sheltered Reason was due to being on the run with her mother. And I like these three characters not only helping Reason discovering her magic, but also as growing friends and just helping each other out.The problem is Esmeralda and Jason Blake. I did like Esmeralda, but we never get to see enough of her that’s not from Reason’s POV. (Tom does interact with Esmeralda, but we never get enough information on their relationship aside from mentor/student and that she “helped out” Tom’s family when his mother was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.) The problem is that we never get the conflict explained beyond, “Oh, well, we just have different methodology for using and gaining someone else’s magic.” (I do kind of like the fact that Esmeralda acknowledges that her ‘showdown’ with Blake was actually really low-level, mainly because they couldn’t expend a lot of magic.) We know that Blake’s bad news, but we don’t get an actual reason why aside from being a skeevy douche. I don’t get why this is so important that Reason shouldn’t be near him, aside from Reason has massive magical potential. (It’s also frustrating how casually it’s dropped that Reason accidentally killed a boy when she was little. The only reason I’m not more ragey about this plot point is that it’s explained in the Magic Lessons preview at the end of my copy). I wanted to get more into the mysteries right away—why do magic users only live so long? What’s with Reason’s power? Why did Esmeralda kill a cat, and why did it affect Reason’s mother like it did? (I do have to also say I really don’t like the whole reason that Sarafina tries to kill herself is because she doesn’t use her magic, and that’s implied of all strong magic users who stop using their magic. If I do get my hands on another volume, I hope that this gets explained better, because the reason here reads as really problematic.)Again, this is not to say that this is a bad book, nor a bad start to a series. But ultimately, Magic or Madness does suffer from the Trilogy Syndrome thanks to the massive amount of set-up that’s given in one book and resolved with a quick denouement and a “To Be Continued.” I do want to read the rest of the series, but as a stand-alone volume, I can see where people would be quickly turned off from reading the other two books. (I can haz omnibus?)


This review is also posted on my blog, In The Good Books.Magic Or Madness was Justine Larbalestier's first YA novel. I've read Liar by her before, and it's one of my favorites. I enjoyed reading Magic Or Madness, but I wasn't wowed by it like I was her other books.I recognised the writing style - simple, emotive, and captivating. The plot was tense, the characters were all realistic and dynamic, and the ending was satisfying. The premise was unique, and I liked how the book explored a downside to supernatural abilities.I liked every element of the book, yet I finished feeling kind of indifferent (thus this incredibly short review). I can say that overall I found Magic Or Madness good but not great. I recommend it anyone who likes books which have a unique take to a common supernatural element, and give it a 3 out of 5.


This is book one of a trilogy--book two is Magic Lessons and book three is Magic's Child. Characters are well written and plot flows quickly between Australia and NYC. There is a glossary in the back for definitions of unique phrases and words from both cultures. Told mostly from the point of view of Reason Cansino who has been on the run with her mother throughout the outback. Her Mom has raised her not to believe in magic, but when her Mom goes mad and is institutionalized Reason has to live with the very person they've been running from-her grandmother Esmeralda who lives in NYC. I liked the way that chapters were told in different voices as well as points of view.


I loved Justine Larbalestier's Liar, and I think in a way it spoiled me for this book, which is equally readable but a bit less intricate, and requiring less thought. The basic idea is encapsulated in the title, which makes it very annoying that the main character, Reason, spends at least half the book not getting it -- it doesn't come as a big revelation to the reader, if they can put one and one together to make two.My other problem with it was how prevalent the slang was. It's like Justine Larbalestier did some basic research on what teens are saying in Australia and NYC lately, and then crammed all of it in, in every other sentence. That'll quickly make it feel dated, and it feels so contrived. The fact that she needs a little glossary in the back to make things clear is kind of annoying.The characters themselves haven't gone anywhere much, but I have hope for them. I'm most interested in Esmeralda, really: I found the portrayal of her for the most part one-dimensional, except for at the end where she shone. I like the moral ambiguity, and I hope it's expanded upon. That could make it very interesting. I'm not so drawn by Jay-Tee, Reason and Tom.Magic or Madness is a pretty quick, fun read, but I don't like it nearly as much as I liked Liar. If I were to recommend Larbalestier's work to someone for the first time, I'd suggest they read Magic or Madness first, and figured out if they were interested in reading the rest, before going onto Liar, simply because Liar raised my expectations very high, and consequently reduced my enjoyment of this book.


In short, it was pretty good. The cover told me right away in plain words that this is the first in a trilogy, so I wasn't expecting resolution to every plot- and thought-line in the book.I recommend this book for the author's presentation of magic as a dangerous and painful thing, but a genetic gift that has madness as its only alternative. It's a gritty, more realistic presentation of magic than most YA books give (Fleishman's Fade being a horrific exception).The main character is named Reason. She loves math. Her mother raised her to fear and hate her grandmother, who is - according to the mom - an evil woman dabbling in the trappings of witch craft. Well, no, actually, she's a practicing mage. There's a difference, as we see as the book goes on.One of the main carriers of the plot is a door that opens from Sydney in the height of summer to New York during a snow storm. The characters that go through it suffer the equivalent of jet lag plus some disorientation about what day/time it is. Due to the combination of time and the character's name, and I found myself singing the Time song from The Phantom Tollbooth more than once.


I'm not sure how I came across this book, but I'm glad I checked it out from the library & didn't buy it. It was really just ok for me (that sounded like Randy from American idol - dawg). Anyways, I wouldn't recommend it. I don't even think I will bother reading the other 2 books in the trilogy.

Lauren Giova

I have to first start off with the point of view, or points of view i should say. Reason, the main character started the story off by narrating in first person. But as the story proceeded and introduced more characters the telling was twisted into third person with these new characters as the focal point. I found this more irritating than confusing and wished the story would have been told from one point of view preferably Reason's. I believe the maintaining of Reason's narration would have brought me into the book more so than it actually did. Moving on to a different topic, i would like to say that i also found the absurdness of Reason not knowing anything about the world (Jay-Tee too for that matter)was also irritating. I wish i could have wrung her neck and slapped her in the face when Reason refused to even speak with her Grandmother. I believe that if the author delved deeper into the way Reason was raised with her mother and the beliefs her mother installed in her, it would have made the hatred and caution more understandable. However, the story line was acceptable, nothing new or intriguing. I suppose it is a good starting point for those people who would like to start reading fantasy. But i wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who has a passion for High Fantasy.


It's different kind of magic. It's magic or madness. Hanya itu pilihanmu. Kau bisa memilih menerima bakat sihirmu dan menggunakannya, dan kemudian menerima konsekwensinya bahwa sihir memakanmu, memendekkan hidupmu, membuatmu mati sebelum menikmati hidupmu.... atau jangan gunakan sihirmu dan kehilangan akal sehatmu, gila dan terkurung di rumah sakit jiwa.Reason Cansino hidup dalam pelarian bersama ibunya Saraphina. Tapi sebenarnya ia sama sekali buta akan apa yang menyebabkan ibunya begitu ketakutan terhadap neneknya. Tapi saat akhirnya Saraphina benar-benar harus mendapatkan perawatan untuk kondisi mentalnya, Reason harus berhadapan dengan neneknya secara langsung dengan 'si tukang sihir'. Dan ia harus mengakui, bahwa sihir itu benar-benar ada....


I'm just going to review all three of the books in this trilogy right here, because honestly, I don't think they should even be three separate books. One longer novel (with all the repetition edited out) would've been plenty for this concept, which was interesting, but that's about as far as I can go. The characters could be okay, but they're either too naive or annoying or just unrealistic, and they don't react to the novel's situation very believably AT ALL. Switching narrators also annoyed me. This just really falls flat, especially when compared to some of the really good YA lit that's out there. OT: It's obvious that Larbalastier is married to Scot Westerfeld -- many of her concepts are seen in his novels too (numbers in the Midnighters series, for example).


Sampulnya serem. Tapi suka warna biru-birunya ituuuu… Ahahahaha…Anyway, buku ini bercerita tentang Reason, atau yang biasa dipanggil Ree. Seorang gadis 15 tahun yang selama ini hidup berpindah-pindah bersama Sarafina, ibunya. Ree punya kemampuan sangat khusus di bidang Matematika. Dia menenangkan diri dengan menghafalkan deret Fibonacci, dan mampu langsung mengetahui jumlah dari segala sesuatu yang dia lihat. Selama hidup bersama ibunya, Ree dipaksa untuk percaya bahwa Esmeralda, neneknya sendiri, adalah tukang sihir yang jahat. Sampai akhirnya Ree terpaksa harus tinggal bersama neneknya, karena Sarafina akhirnya dimasukkan ke rumah sakit jiwa. Ree, yang sudah terlanjur percaya bahwa neneknya jahat, berupaya mencari jalan untuk melarikan diri. Tapi dia justru menemukan pintu ajaib yang membawa dia pergi dari rumah neneknya di Sydney ke New York City. Di NYC ini dia bertemu dengan Jay-Tee. Dan dia pelan-pelan mulai menghadapi kenyataan, bahwa sihir itu benar-benar ada, dan dia adalah bagian dari sihir.Saya memang selalu suka dengan buku yang bernuansa magis dan fantasi. Dan selalu menyenangkan melihat bagaimana pengarang yang berbeda menggambarkan sihir dengan cara yang berbeda pula. Dan sihir yang ada di buku ini berbeda. Dalam buku ini, sihir terkesan misterius, fascinating, yet dangerous. And maybe that’s why Sarafina was freaked out about it. Alurnya mengalir agak sedikit lambat sih kalau menurut saya, karena setiap lapisan misteri dari Sarafina dan Esmeralda dibuka perlahan. Dan sihir disini kesannya personal sekali, sangat tergantung pada individu yang memiliki sihir itu. Tidak banyak tokoh yang muncul di buku ini, tapi justru karena itu, setiap tokoh tampil dengan peranan dan porsi yang pas. Kadang antara kasian dan sebel sama Ree, yang terlalu percaya pada ibunya dan tidak mau mempercayai neneknya.But still, the thing that I find most interesting about this book is how the magic works. Kok kesannya misterius banget. And I like how the relationship between the characters grew some chemistry attachment between them throughout the story.Would like to read the next one in this trilogy. 3.5 out of 5.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *