Ms. Pierce, respectfully, I wish you had shown more compassion for the characters in your fictional Kugisko's psychiatric hospital wing.
More on that iMs. Pierce, respectfully, I wish you had shown more compassion for the characters in your fictional Kugisko's psychiatric hospital wing.
More on that in a moment.
Overall, this particular series is more formulaic than what I am used to from an excellent author. This book specifically did not resonate with me, though I enjoyed the main character in her previous book in The Circle of Magic series. This book didn't feel like it was as focused on Daja as I had hoped.
This book ends with a disclaimer about how the author knows people will be upset about the use of fur, and explains her choice as being appropriate for time period and culture. I did not have an issue with that. Her reasoning is sound.
What I did have an issue with was the repeated disparaging, slur-like conversation about mental illness - words like "madmen" and "crazy people," and the main character being frightened of mentally ill patients and frustrated at having to interact with a "madman," with no narrator intervention to explain that these are individual reactions based on ignorance. Instead, these thoughts are treated as understandable and justified.
Really? In the 21st century, that's how you treat this subject? You can have the mentally ill folks in a period-appropriate situation while still maintaining some humanity and respect in your narration.
Also, the concept of monsters raising monsters is a harsh one, even though it came from a character's mouth and not the narrator. People can overcome all sorts of backgrounds, and often folks who have been harmed the most will end up with a great deal of compassion, and aversion to furthering the cycle of trauma. I've heard this from a woman who has spent a lot of her career doing family therapy and working with traumatized and abused children and adults. Please stop perpetuating myths like these surrounding emotional wellbeing.
I caution parents whose children are reading this to emphasize to the child that what's in this story does not reflect how we ought to treat or speak about persons with disabilities of any kind, and that stigma surrounding mental illness is rampant, but that doesn't make it okay. ...more
Six stars. Seven stars. All the stars. What a gorgeous book. It's full of love. It's got a hefty bit of darkness in it, but is bursting with light. A woSix stars. Seven stars. All the stars. What a gorgeous book. It's full of love. It's got a hefty bit of darkness in it, but is bursting with light. A work of art. I devoured and adored it....more
I'll start by saying that I absolutely love that the main character's name is Reason. The name itself and the explanation behind it, Reason's mother'sI'll start by saying that I absolutely love that the main character's name is Reason. The name itself and the explanation behind it, Reason's mother's firm belief in and reliance on logic, really pleased me. The list of alternative names she was glad she hadn't been given was cute and funny, too.
Reason Cansino and her mother Sarafina have been living a nomadic lifestyle in Australia, largely to avoid detection from Sarafina's mother Esmerelda. Sarafina has been telling Reason for her whole life that Esmerelda is dangerous, believes herself to be a witch, and has performed heinous rituals in the name of magic. Sarafina ran away from home as an adolescent, and has spent her adult life trying to protect her daughter from a woman she considers evil.
When Sarafina suffers a mental break and attempts to take her own life, Reason finds herself shuttled off to the house of the one person she wants to avoid, her grandmother, who has legal custody of her.
Reason refuses to trust, speak to, or even accept food from Esmerelda, and begins immediately plotting her escape. She is trying to decide whether to break her mother out of the nearby mental hospital where she has been placed.
Before she can make up her mind, and without having any of her bug-out supplies with her, she accidentally finds herself transported from her grandmother's back door in Sydney to a frigid street in Manhattan, NY, in the middle of the night.
Reason is forced to come to grips with the idea that perhaps her mother was wrong all along, and that magic is real.
"Magic or Madness" is clever and fast-paced, with a fresh take on a contemporary fictional world in which some people have magic and some don't. The leading lady is street-wise, intelligent, and a little rough-around the edges, and she has to rely on her intuition and self-knowledge to decide who to trust and who to run from in a wildly unfamiliar environment.
The sometimes-hard language is geared more toward the higher end of YA, so this would make a better teen than tween book. It is also very enjoyable for adults, in my opinion. Among other things, I appreciated the author's disregard for narrow gender stereotypes in both her female and male characters.
The story held my attention firmly until I finished it, which happened quickly, because I didn't want to put it down. Things definitely ended on a teasing, mysterious note, so I'm excited to pick up the next installment of the series.
There are a lot of comparisons being thrown around between this book/trilogy and other YA fanta[review originally posted on Elizabeth Editorializes.]
There are a lot of comparisons being thrown around between this book/trilogy and other YA fantasy series. I tried to ignore much of that and judge the story on its own merit. (That being said, it was difficult not to draw my own parallels. There seems to have been some strong influence from other works within the genre.)
The main character of "Half Bad" is a teenaged boy named Nathan, who lives with his maternal grandmother and several half-siblings. His father is absent, and his mother ended her own life when he was very young.
Nathan's mother was a white witch, and his father was a black witch. There is a rather obvious association with good magic and bad magic, respectively, with those two designations.
What makes a witch white or black is unclear in the book. It seems to be hereditary, but some people tell Nathan that he can choose to be white instead of black with his thoughts and behavior.
Being a black witch is a very undesirable thing in Nathan's society, which is basically contemporary U.K., so for the most part he tries to deny any traits he thinks may have come from his dangerous father, at least for a large portion of his life so far.
There is a relatively low amount of actual magic in the book, which is in part because witches in this fictional world do not practice their craft until they come of age (at seventeen years old). I imagine there will be more magic in the subsequent books, because Nathan finally turns seventeen toward the end of the novel.
Nathan is the only half-white, half-black witch that he knows of, and the governing body of white witches attempts to interfere with his life and persecute him with increasing frequency and severity as he grows older.
Eventually, this Council of white witches ceases their tiptoeing around and imprisons him, sending him to live in a cage in a remote location with a single witch watching over him and attempting to teach him things. Much of what he goes through could be called torture, and yet it is not entirely clear whether his jailer, Celia, is a "bad guy" through-and-through or somewhat sympathetic to Nathan.
Parts of the story tell how Nathan came to be imprisoned, and parts are about his ordeal in captivity, and his plans to escape. Nathan needs to escape to find someone, possibly his father, who will participate with him in the ritual that allows him to become a full-fledged witch, for he has heard that if he does not go through with this rite, he will die.
The book has a varying pace, which keeps it interesting. Nathan is a fairly well-developed character, but there are few other characters in the book who seem truly realistic and multi-dimensional.
(One character informs Nathan that a third character is in love with him, but there was no indication in behavior or dialogue of that depth of feeling. It was certainly a case of telling, and not showing, on the author's part.)
While "Half Bad" kept me entertained, it did not dip down very far below the surface. Many questions I had about Nathan's world and abilities went unanswered. Again, it's possible that things will come together more in the sequels, but I am not sure whether I am invested in the story enough to follow up with them. I might. It was exciting at times, and has potential to develop into something more substantial....more
More of a three-and-a-half star book, but I'll bump it up. Robin McKinley writes some wonderful woman characters, but her world-building leaves a littMore of a three-and-a-half star book, but I'll bump it up. Robin McKinley writes some wonderful woman characters, but her world-building leaves a little something to be desired for me. In this as well as other books of hers, there are royal status structures and magical skills and hierarchies that are never fully explained. If a world has details in it that are different from the real world, I think they should be made clear so that the reader can fully appreciate what's important and why those things are important. This book did not really interest me until about halfway through, when it picked up speed a bit. I do enjoy the interaction between humans and animals in Ms. McKinley's books, and this one was no different. The horse who carried Aerin was almost as much of a main character as Aerin herself. Aerin was a tough cookie with plenty of agency, and that really helped give this book a four-star rating....more