Magic or Madness (Magic or Madness, #1)

ISBN: 1595140700
ISBN 13: 9781595140708
By: Justine Larbalestier

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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

Luciana Darce

Tenho uma confissão a fazer: não escolhi esse livro porque já conhecia a autora (até porque antes disso nunca tinha ouvido falar dela...) e nem por ter sido fisgada pela sinopse (que só vim a ler depois de já tê-lo colocado na agenda do Desafio Literário 2011). O verdadeiro motivo que me levou a escolher esse livro foi o seguinte: ele tem uma coruja na capa brasileira.Felizmente, esse não foi um daqueles casos em que "quem vê capa não vê coração" (hum... acho que estou confundindo alguma coisa...) e eu gostei suficientemente do livro para querer ler o resto da trilogia (volto a repetir que sinto muitas saudades da época em que as histórias eram contadas em um único volume...).A história de Magia ou Loucura gira em torno de Razão Cansino, uma garota de quinze anos que passou a vida inteira fugindo com a mãe da avó Esmeralda. De acordo com Sarafina, a mãe de Razão, Esmeralda acredita ser uma bruxa (má) e passou a infância de Sarafina atormentando-a, até que ela fugiu, engravidou de um aborígene (estamos na Austrália), teve Razão e continuou fugindo, especialmente depois que a bruxa má entrou com uma ação de tutela da neta.Razão foi ensinada que a avó é meio louca, porque é óbvio que magia não existe. Mas aí, Sarafina enlouquece de verdade e tenta se matar, Razão é levada pelo serviço social para a avó enquanto a mãe é internada numa clínica em Sidney, ela descobre algumas coisas, conhece outras, passa pela porta dos fundos e, de repente, descobre que está em Nova York...... e chega à conclusão de que magia existe - e isso, amiguinhos, é só a primeira metade do livro.A questão é que... magia existe, magia é boa, magia é legal... mas quando você usa magia, você 'queima' energia e alguns anos de sua vida - o que explica porque as mulheres da família Cansino morrem muito jovens. E, se você simplesmente não usa a magia, então você enlouquece. E aí tenta se matar... ou matar os filhos (como a mãe de Tom e o pai de Jay-Tee).Não vou dizer que o livro é ma-ra-vi-lho-so ou super original, porque isso não é bem verdade. Mas é uma história interessante, com algumas tintas bem sombrias (quero saber mais sobre o garoto que a Razão matou no passado...), com potencial para crescer.Agora, uma coisa curiosa... os três livros que li para janeiro no Desafio foram centrados em personagens femininas bastante jovens, com alguns probleminhas familiares, e extremamente determinadas. Tanto Razão quanto Tiffany e Lila têm de, sozinhas, empreender uma jornada perigosa, que determina uma reviravolta em suas vidas.É uma coincidência que isso tenha acontecido; não fiz essas escolhas propositalmente até porque, como já confessei, não escolhi todos os livros sabendo do que se tratava, mas sim por conhecer os autores ou por causa da capa (vergonha, Lulu, vergonha...). Mas é bem curiosa a forma como os livros se somaram.


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.

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.

Alisha Marie

I have alluded (or more like outright stated) in my previous reviews my love of anything to do with witches and magic. Even thinking about anything remotely to do with magic instantly brings me back to a much more innocent place in my life. Ever since this, okay I’ll say it, obsession with this type of world started, I’ve been searching for books about magic that would take me back to the wonderment I first felt by watching something about it (Charmed) and reading something about it (Harry Potter). Some of the books have been good, but most of them have been a tad on the mediocre side. Magic or Madness, unfortunately, falls under the latter.First of all, the main character, Reason was completely inconsistent. No 15 year old is that naïve. It just doesn’t happen. After a while, it did start to grate a little. In fact, every time Jay-Tee was getting annoyed at the same thing and wanting to punch Reason, I kept thinking that she should totally go for it. And as the story progressed, I was wishing for naïveté to come back because Reason was starting to turn into a damn idiot. But going back to the inconsistent part, she was taught to be on guard and a bit on the paranoid side. However, she just stands by and swallows all the fake crap that people tell her. It was like everyone else was saying “Dance, puppet, dance!” and Reason was all, “I shouldn’t…but OKAY!!!!” And then there are moments when she starts being wise (after like 24 hours which also makes it inconsistent) and then goes back to being an idiot. In fact, I found reason and Tom (her maybe love interest in the future) both idiots. Tom was all “I have to SAVE Reason”, yet all he does for most of the book is stop by a café or a restaurant to eat something. He was equally as useless as Reason.The only characters I even remotely liked were Jay-Tee and Esmeralda. I found Jay-Tee to be refreshing and I’ve always been drawn to “troubled” characters. Mostly because they tend to be less annoying than the actual goody-goodies in YA books (and this is coming from someone who was a complete goody-goody in high school). I was also extremely intrigued by Esmeralda. So much that I was hoping that she would narrate some chapters of the book (yes I know it’s a YA book so I should’ve known she wouldn’t). Again, it could be my love of “troubled” characters shining through. The magic in the Magic or Madness was also intriguing. It’s too bad that it was only lightly touched upon in this book.So, Magic or Madness was a bit of a bust for me. I just didn’t find Reason’s portrayal realistic. Neither was Tom, come to think of it. Will I read the second book? Probably. But only because of that interesting storyline involving Esmeralda that I think may come up. But it sure as hell won’t be anytime soon.

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?)


The one where Reason's mother goes mad, leaving Reason in the clutches of the grandmother she's been taught is a wicked witch. I enjoyed this, though like many YA books it was more of a snack than a full novel. (It only lasted me a day and a half! I had to make a special evening trip to the library so as not to face a bookless night!)I enjoyed spending time with Reason; unlike a lot of YA heroines, she's not whiny, nor are her problems trivial. She is exasperatingly unwilling to listen or ask questions, but she does have a better-than-average excuse (much better than, say, Harry Potter's). Tom and JayTee and Esmerelda and even poor Sarafina are all interesting as well. I got a little tired of listening to Tom go on and on about Reason's attractiveness; it was so overdone that I began to wonder whether the author felt that she needed to reassure people that even though Tom is interested in fashion, this doesn't mean he's gay, honest. (If that's the reason, it would have been a good idea not to have him use the word 'gorgeous' quite so much, unless it carries different connotations in Australia.)The climactic battle, which apparently happens entirely in the heads of the participants, is a bit of a letdown. Still, I've put Magic Lessons on my to-read list.(Locus poll: Magic Lessons #3 YA SFF novel of year)


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.”(


This first in a fantasy trilogy is a very fast paced read. Reason's mother goes insane, so she has to go live with her grandmother, the source of her mother's insanity, or so she has been led to believe. Reason tries to avoid contact with Esmerelda, but decides she needs to run away. Little does she know running away will send her from Australia to New York. The book is full of action, a little violence, and is a good entry in the urban fantasy genre.

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.


Magic or MadnessReason Cansino and her mother Sarafina have been on the run in the Australia outback as long as Reason can remember. For fifteen years they have been running away from Reasons grandmother Esmeralda, this crazy woman that believes in magic. After her mother suffers a mental breakdown, Reason is sent to her grandmother in Sydney. Soon after arriving Reason finds herself in the streets of NYC, and she is forced to face the truth… her mother did lie.. Reason is magic! You will love this thrilling novel of a girl discovering the truth about her self, filled with fantasy and mystery.

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!


Odds are, if you've read one of Justine Larbalestier's books before, it's either Team Human or Liar, and you're checking this out because you liked one or both of those. I haven't read Team Human yet, so I can't compare this book to that, but this couldn't be farther from Liar. And I hate to say it, but I don't mean that in a good way. Liar was a stunningly original, character-driven story with one of the best twists I've ever seen. This isn't a bad novel - particularly in the beginning - but overall, it feels bland and slow in comparison to Liar.The most noticeable thing that Larbalestier does right in the beginning is that she does a really good job of anticipating the reader's reactions and playing off them. The novel opens with Reason (yes, that's the name of a character) in her grandmother's house, and instantly, we're bombarded with descriptions from Reason's mother of the grandmother's abuse. They're very evocative and terrifying, setting the audience up for the Grandmother as a villain. But then Reason searches the house, and the signals are more mixed. She finds teeth in her grandmother's toothbrush, but little of the other expected signs of abuse were found. Slowly, we realize we're dealing with a very different kind of book than we thought we were. The way I'm describing it, it probably doesn't seem like such a big deal, but when it comes gradually, it's incredibly subtle and surprising. Larbalestier clearly has a lot of command over how her readers think and make predictions.But then Reason gets sucked to New York City, and it all goes downhill from there. My main problem with the book was that it felt more like the pilot of a long TV show than the first book in a trilogy. We have the introduction of the heroes (but no significant character development other than their outlines), the introduction of a villain (but no serious fighting with him), and the beginnings of a plot (but no real suspense and only the beginnings of a longer arc). Most of all, I was disappointed in the setting. In Liar, Micah's New York was real and evocative - full of life and character. Here, Larbalestier has little to say about either Sydney or New York City, other than, "Whoa, people from America think Australians talk weird, but Australians think it's the other way around! Dude!" It has none of Liar's insight or dimension.The writing was another aspect I was disappointed in. There was nothing wrong with it, exactly - it was smooth and efficient, and it got the job done. I was just incredibly disappointed in how Larbalestier chose to represent Reason's voice. In Liar, Micah's voice was captured with an astounding subtlety and grace. Here, Reason doesn't have a distinct voice - it could be any Australian teenager behind the writing. The reason for this soon becomes clear: when Larbalestier wants to write a chapter from Tom or Jay-Tee's point of view, she just changes to third person and doesn't change how she writes a bit, other than using Americanized spelling and grammar for Jay-Tee. I've seen this before, and it annoys me every time. It's such a lazy way of changing POV characters without having to develop distinct voices. Tom and Jay-Tee were very different characters from Reason, and none would speak alike. I could've understood if Reason's chapters were in third person as well, but the way it is, it simply felt like a misrepresentation of all three POV characters.And it's quite a shame, too, because all three were very well-developed. Despite the lack of progression I mentioned earlier, Larbalestier clearly had a good idea of all of their personalities. Larbalestier did a good job of fleshing out their backgrounds - their hobbies, their passions, their weird fetishes. (Okay, very little weird fetishes, but whatever.) As the series goes on, I'm looking forward to seeing how Larbalestier chooses to extend on their personalities and develop them further. Because they have a lot of potential, more than we see here.Overall, this was a perfectly fine novel that I ruined by reading Liar first. Really, this wouldn't be bad on its own, but it can't hold a candle to Liar. If you're looking for a controlled and unique experience reading a fantasy book, this is a fine option. But it's nothing compared to the punch that Liar packs, and I'll always recommend that over this.


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.


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....


Not bad. Not great either, but a very interesting concept. Magic exists, but it comes with a hefty price. One you can't avoid. Either you use your magic but you die early, or you ignore your magic and go insane. It's told from the point of view of several characters across the chapters, but the author does a good job keeping you abreast of who's talking without making it forced.It splits the story between Sydney, Australia and NY, NY, with characters from both locations. So the English is either American or Australian depending upon who's talking. She includes a glossary for the Aussie words you might not know. Not bad for an afternoon read, but not one I'd look to buy. I could walk away mid-story and not feel particularly compelled to find out the rest. I also don't feel certain who the "bad guy" is. One minute you're for someone, and the next they're a horrible person, and the author can't quite make up her mind which way she wants it. But it doesn't go so far as a truly complex character with strengths and flaws.I've got the whole trilogy since it was there, we'll see if things improve as we go along.

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