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2013 Reads > AO: Magic In the book (spoilers)

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message 1: by Nathan (last edited Jun 06, 2013 07:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments How did you like and take the magic in the book? It has been talked about off and on in other posts, but I think it deserves its own discussion.

I really enjoyed the magic in the book because it worked in both explicit and implicit or hidden ways.

I skeptical of it at first, but my skepticism decreased after Halloween and finally disappeared when Wim saw the fairies.

Still, I had trouble completely believing Mori when she seemed to have definite knowledge of magic beyond seeing fairies, knowing objects were magical, and the ending, as I have stated elsewhere.

Mori states again and again that she does not understand magic beyond what the fairies tell her to do, yet she is 100% sure piercing her ears will take away her ability to do magic. It seemed contradictory to me.

One could say she is intuitive, but how often is intuition wrong, especially when you are younger?

The same goes with the Kurass magic. Again, what she says she knows about magic, how do we even know it worked? Yes since this magic works in subtle ways it is easy to deny it when it is there, but the converse is also true; it is easy to see it when it is not there.

Her questioning of the Kurass magic seemed more to stem from her thought that no one can like her (a reoccurring theme in her writings) or like the things that she likes.


message 2: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments The magic, while real, also seems to come from her imagination. Like she and her sister know magic exists but because it is such an unreal thing, and they were still children when they discovered it, they embellish what it can do and interweave it with their imaginings. Similarly, how she treats fiction - relating it to real life and using words created in fiction to account for things in reality, just as she uses magic to influence how she interprets the world around her.

So I think there is a blurring. Making magic real in the story, but not all her versions of it.


Michele | 1154 comments I like the idea that magic is just a way of focusing yourself to interact with natural unseen forces and apply pressure to them to make them react in your favor. Just as prayer, meditation, and wiccan rituals claim to do in our world. So this system of magic seemed very believable to me and also Mori's being unsure about how it works exactly, and the fairies ability to interact with it on a more fundamental direct level.

I think the most her karass spell did was get the librarian to mention the club meetings to her at the right time for her to join, or perhaps just casting the spell made her more willing to consider joining than she would have been before.

The fight at the end with her mother was much more showy but boiled down to a contest of wills, and Mori found the strength to defy her mother and to win with a beautiful transformation of negative energy into the positive results of healing the land.

I do think it was all very instinctive and so the whole book is about Mori learning to trust her instincts and discover her own sense of morality for using her powers.


Leesa (leesalogic) | 625 comments Michele, I agree with everything you wrote. However we want to define it (will, affirmation, manipulation, determination, magic), it's a lesson in free will, desire, and function.


Stephanie (einahpets_reads) Nathan wrote: "I really enjoyed the magic in the book because it worked in both explicit and implicit or hidden ways."

I also really enjoyed this aspect of the book. I am used to fantasy books where there is a more rigid defined way that magic works. Something a little more fuzzy in it's boundaries was refreshing to me.

But I did also find myself wondering for a good half of the book whether Mori was just really insane and was an unreliable narrator. For me it would have been an enjoyable book even then.


Ulmer Ian (eean) | 341 comments Stephanie wrote: "But I did also find myself wondering for a good half of the book whether Mori was just really insane and was an unreliable narrator. For me it would have been an enjoyable book even then. "

Who says she isn't? It's explicitly stated that the magic can all be explained away as coincidence.


message 7: by Ulmer Ian (last edited Jun 06, 2013 08:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ulmer Ian (eean) | 341 comments Nathan wrote: "Mori states again and again that she does not understand magic beyond what the fairies tell her to do, yet she is 100% sure piercing her ears will take away her ability to do magic. It seemed contradictory to me."

She gets more confident in her magic as the book progresses. In the events before the book I get the impression she always just follows the fairy directions, then she starts doing her own magic. The ear piercing situation was the first time she felt confident in her independent magical ability I think.

The same goes with the Kurass magic. Again, what she says she knows about magic, how do we even know it worked? Yes since this magic works in subtle ways it is easy to deny it when it is there, but the converse is also true; it is easy to see it when it is not there.

I like that it leaves it open whether fandom actually existed before her Kurass magic. If not, let's all give her thanks for willing this culture into being. :D

So to your question, it's not clear if magic is rewriting history and thus there's a sort of 'meta-timeline' (Back to the Future style) or if there's only one timeline and the magic of the future is actually effecting the present. Either way it's a cool way of thinking about magic and why I enjoyed the system.


D. H. | 100 comments Nathan wrote: How did you like and take the magic in the book? It has been talked about off and on in other posts, but I think it deserves its own discussion.

I liked it because it was its vagueness that gave the book multiple layers and made it seem more realistic. The more realistic part came from the fact that if magic were as vague as it is in AO, it’s possible that would explain why I haven’t encountered it in my own life. The multiple layers came from us doubting whether or not it was real or if Mori was insane.

I think the question about whether or not she is insane because she keeps talking about magic when we’re seeing no evidence that it is real is one of several questions that drive the book early on. Until, as you said, Wim saw the fairies as well. Or, for me, especially when Wim repeated something a fairy said without having heard it from Mori.

Nathan wrote: “Mori states again and again that she does not understand magic beyond what the fairies tell her to do, yet she is 100% sure piercing her ears will take away her ability to do magic. It seemed contradictory to me.

You’re right about intuition. With many things she mentions she doesn’t understand it in on a cognitive level, but more on an intuitive level. It’s easy for me to imagine that she understood this intuitively. Also she seems to know magic when she sees it, which is why she can tell the earrings are enchanted. It’s not a big step to go from there to knowing that piercing her ears will harm her ability to do magic. Is it?

Also, she’s a bright and alert girl. She realizes the sisters are witches, and she notices that they don’t have earrings. Maybe at first she suspects the goal of the earrings is to work magic on her, thinks, “What if they know I’m doing magic,” and then, “Maybe they want to stop me,” and sees that they don’t wear earrings. Thus realizing that earrings take away your ability to do magic.

If none of that satisfies you, than I think it would also be OK to think she’s just wrong and overreacting. Or that she doesn’t really know 100%. If this is true, would it really change anything?

Nathan said: The same goes with the Kurass magic. Again, what she says she knows about magic, how do we even know it worked? Yes since this magic works in subtle ways it is easy to deny it when it is there, but the converse is also true; it is easy to see it when it is not there.

Again I agree for the most part, but she has experience working magic and knows it when she sees it. There is a cause and effect: she spread leaves and the ghosts could go to the place they go to after life. She and her sister put a flower in the pond to bring down the factory and the factory closed. This tells me she knows when magic is working. She doesn’t know how it works or to what extent. But she knows she cast a spell to get something (karass) and she go it.

Her questioning the karass seems to me to come from her fear that she infringed on their freewill.

Louise wrote: The magic, while real, also seems to come from her imagination. Like she and her sister know magic exists but because it is such an unreal thing, and they were still children when they discovered it, they embellish what it can do and interweave it with their imaginings. Similarly, how she treats fiction - relating it to real life and using words created in fiction to account for things in reality, just as she uses magic to influence how she interprets the world around her. So I think there is a blurring.

Well said! It’s as though their belief and imagination is what directs and governs the magic.

Michele wrote: I like the idea that magic is just a way of focusing yourself to interact with natural unseen forces and apply pressure to them to make them react in your favor.

Brill! The more I read the comments the more I think I understand how magic works in AO.

Ulmer Ian wrote: it's not clear if magic is rewriting history and thus there's a sort of 'meta-timeline' (Back to the Future style) or if there's only one timeline and the magic of the future is actually effecting the present. Either way it's a cool way of thinking about magic and why I enjoyed the system.

I totally agree.


message 9: by Nathan (last edited Jun 07, 2013 06:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments You’re right about intuition. With many things she mentions she doesn’t understand it in on a cognitive level, but more on an intuitive level. It’s easy for me to imagine that she understood this intuitively. Also she seems to know magic when she sees it, which is why she can tell the earrings are enchanted. It’s not a big step to go from there to knowing that piercing her ears will harm her ability to do magic. Is it?

Also, she’s a bright and alert girl. She realizes the sisters are witches, and she notices that they don’t have earrings. Maybe at first she suspects the goal of the earrings is to work magic on her, thinks, “What if they know I’m doing magic,” and then, “Maybe they want to stop me,” and sees that they don’t wear earrings. Thus realizing that earrings take away your ability to do magic.


Let me prefeace this by saying: If you want to take it that way, great!

For me it was hard to take her intuition at face vaue for the following reasons:

1. Personally I found that she just did not like the Aunts from the begining. Mori blames them for sending her away to school yet she does not want to spend time with them or even Daniel that much. She does not even see them as individuals, but a kind of collective malevolent force.

2. She is increadably damaged psycologically (just look how she reacts to Daniel almost raping her for example) and she was under pressure from the Aunts, who should have treated her better in this case. I view her "intuition" as coming from a damaged psyche under pressure. It gave her the reason she needed to hate them and fight back in this curcumstance.

3. Identifying something is very different from knowing how it works.

4. Motive, if they really are witches why would they want to do this to her? Oh yeh, so far the Aunts have: paid for her schooling (the same schooling they got btw) and bought her school supplies, a great basis for deducing their (or a) nefarious purpose.

If you question the scene and evaluate its assumptions, it just does not hold up very well.

Her questioning the karass seems to me to come from her fear that she infringed on their freewill.

To take it a step further, perhaps she believed because no one of their freewill could like her or like what she likes.


Steve (plinth) | 177 comments We can look at this a few ways.

1. magic exists in her world. She understands it as much as a typical person understands, say, the human autoimmune system: not, much but is aware of, especially when it goes wrong.
2. magic doesn't exist and her writings are her imagination.
3. magic doesn't exist but she is hallucinating it (or some other way of experiencing something in her mind involuntarily).
4. magic exists, but 'magic' is the wrong word for it as it is a perceptual phenomenon.

I think that if she is accurately telling her experiences than 1&4 are most likely.

The strongest support for this is Win's reported common experience of the fairies as well as other children. One might think that it's in her head, but I find her effrctive short, medium, and long term planning are evidence of a reasonably sound mind.


Katie (calenmir) | 211 comments Steve wrote: "We can look at this a few ways.

1. magic exists in her world. She understands it as much as a typical person understands, say, the human autoimmune system: not, much but is aware of, especially wh..."


I think your possibility #1 is a great way of putting it and helps with the ear piercing scene I think. Even though she says she doesn't have a clear idea how things work she knows in her gut the earrings are a bad idea, just like I'm not an expert on my immune system but I know when I'm getting sick or when a certain food or environmental thing is not agreeing with me. Good analogy.


message 12: by Douglas (new)

Douglas Weber | 16 comments The first thing to note is that it looks like the question of the reality of magic is left an open question most probably intentionally by the author. But it is clear, I think, that an argument can be made the 1. the magic is real, and 2 that the magic is something Mor has made up as an explanation. Note this no more proves she is insane than does a imaginary playmate. It is important to remember that all that we get is Mor's diary writing. I see not reason to believe that Mor is completely reliable as a narrator and anything she says must be taken in this context.

Arguments for magic:
1. Mor is very detailed on what she sees and can do. While this might be a very active imagination it could also be an indication of reality.
2. Wim does seem to be affected by the magic cane and sess and hears fairies.
3. The final confrontation is very dramatic and if made up very complex for an imagination

Arguments against
1. All statements are unreliable. So the claim in Mor's diary that Wim saw and hear fairies must be taken as questionable and may have been Mor's hope more that reality. Likewise the final confrontation while very complex is still within the capacity of a your girl who has a very bad relationship with her mother to make up.
3. The problem with the magic system is that it is potentially impossible. The idea is that magic does not work directly but that actions today can cause the past to change so that the magician's desire does become true. This can clearly lead to massive paradoxes where a future desire causes a prior desires changed to the past to have to be undone to cause the new desire to be realized.
4. The only place where anyone other than Mor is reported to have observed the fairies is when Wim is said to hear them. And as discussed above this is not reported with any confirmable certainty.

If one wanted to test the reality of magic, one would want to see if the final confrontation or Mor with her mother truely brought new trees into existence.

My personal guess is that the magic is the result of a very strong imagination of a very smart young woman who has been through some very difficult and stressful experiences. But the author is to be congratulated on making a tale complex and deep enough that one is forced to really look hard at the question.


message 13: by Serendi (new)


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Just because the author says it does not necessary make it so.


Katie (calenmir) | 211 comments Nathan wrote: "Just because the author says it does not necessary make it so."

But it makes it "canon". :P


Steve (plinth) | 177 comments Nathan, did you read the link? I think the author is pretty good, well, authority on her characters and their intents and experiences. Jo is pretty dang explicit.

Denying her words doesn't necessarily make them false either.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments The author and the reader share in the interpretation of a text. Neither one has greater power or authenticity in interpretation.

In other words, authorial intent is interesting, but that is all it is.

I could start citing postmodern literary theorists but that will get boring fast.


message 18: by Serendi (last edited Jun 10, 2013 06:52PM) (new)

Serendi | 819 comments Of course you can interpret it any way you like. Just don't expect that very many others will give weight to your arguments when they contradict the author's clear and unambiguous statement of intent.

ETA: I realize this sounds like I'm saying Don't discuss it. What I really mean is, sure, discuss it, but *acknowledge* the author intent, given that it's known. And recognize that it does carry weight because it's known. And I admit that I don't understand the attraction of arguing something while leaving out a portion of the information. I recognize some of those in this discussion may not have read the other threads, but I think the fact that Jo said what she did ought to be part of the input to the discussion.

Yes, I was pretty absolutist in my earlier post. It was mostly a "Hey, we've *said* this already!" kind of thing.

Argue away! :-)


message 19: by Nathan (last edited Jun 10, 2013 07:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments *edit* I am not saying do not take what she says into account. Rather, I am saying it does not speak any final big "T" Truth about the text. Feel free to answer what I said below or not, given your edit.

Ok two responses

A. If you want to take the tact that that the author has all authority, this book would be an abject failure in conducting meaning (its main purpose I would think) because it can legitimately be interpreted based on textual evidence as a world full of magic to a girl falling into madness. The fact it takes an authorial statement to make it clear is the capstone of this failure.

Moreover the statement is contradictory because it affirms magic yet states she is an unreliable narrator. So if she is unreliable, why would she suddenly be reliable when it comes to the existence of magic? There is no textual case for her correctness in her perceptions of magic, perhaps beyond the seeing the fairies, depending the interpretation of the passage.

But then again I am a person not to be taken seriously.

B. Questions

Is there one “Truth” of a text, or many? 

If an author dies and leaves no notes on a text is the truth of that text lost? 

Does the reader have any role in the interpretation of the text, and if so, why would an extra textual comment, the author’s own interpretation of fictional characters be any more legitimate than a readers, if the characters are fictional, made up mind you, and lack any provable reality outside the text?


message 20: by Serendi (last edited Jun 10, 2013 07:23PM) (new)

Serendi | 819 comments You're actually not the person who triggered the "It's magic!" statement. I know you know about Jo's statement. It was someone who said we don't know, and we do. Then I kind of got over-excited. Sorry about that.


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Nathan wrote: "I could start citing postmodern literary theorists but that will get boring fast. "

I don't consider postmodernism to be a coherent worldview but that's another argument.

Having said that, I think the target reader is right to expect authorial intent to be clear from the grammar and situational context in the text itself. If it's vague then the author did so intentionally to allow the reader room for interpretation. If it's vague and the author decides to clarify after the fact then they failed. If, however, a reader comes from a different cultural context to the author then it is not rational to expect that they will understand cultural references that a target audience would take for granted.


message 22: by Douglas (new)

Douglas Weber | 16 comments First , let us discuss the issue of author intent. The story I use to examine this is one that appeared in the New Yorker in the late 60's. The author was examining the new sheet of glass style of skyscrapers that were appearing in New York and commented that he found one of the appealing aspects of them was that the glass deformed under gravity and wind and reflected a modified view of the city that was different and changing. He found this new view very fascinating. He went to I.M. Pei, the architect of many of these buildings and expressed to him how wonderful he thought this effect was. Pei's answer was that this did not happen. He had not planned it and it was not part of his vision and so it did not exist. What I see from this is that while the author's intent is important and a good anchor for discussion, there are times when the author produces something bigger than was planned.


Katie (calenmir) | 211 comments Nathan wrote: "*edit* I am not saying do not take what she says into account. Rather, I am saying it does not speak any final big "T" Truth about the text. Feel free to answer what I said below or not, given you..."

I disagree with the assertion that Walton saying Mor is an unreliable narrator contradicts the reality of the magic. I felt she stated it in such a way as to imply "what human being *isn't* a bit unreliable of a narrator at some times"...as in any first person account is not going to be 100% objective and accurate but that doesn't mean the inaccuracies are because Mor is crazy or lying or that the inaccuracies are in the main plot points of magic being real and her mother being crazy.


message 24: by Douglas (new)

Douglas Weber | 16 comments There are three approaches to take about magic in this book

1. Magic exists
2. Magic does not exist
3. Whether Magic exists or not is open

I assert that option three produces the best book.

Let us look at the choices and there effect on the interpretation of the book


1. Magic exists
We have a nice story about a girl and fairies. She has conflicts, as we all do, growing up but they are separate from the fairy side of it really. The magic only gives a reason for conflict with here mother and an underlying concern in her life.

2. Magic does not exists. In this case the discussions on magic are the result of the imagination of a girl growing up. They provide a bildungsroman context for the transformation of a girl to a woman. They give us an understanding of how she attempts to understand and control the changes happening to her. This is actually not a bad story in and of itself. It is one of the few coming of age stories I have seen from a female point of view that gives interesting insights into the problem. The book where the magic does not exists is a very good book by itself.

3. The existence of magic is ambiguous. This gives us the best of both worlds and the pleasure of the frission between these two choices. It is not clear if Mor's conflict with her mother is a real conflict in the magic world or the conflict between mother and daughter where the daughter attempts to separate herself from the mother. Both interpretations are possible and when reading one can keep both in mind. They produce different interpretations of the action each of which is consistent within itself but which give a different character for Mor.

I will be honest, in spite of the author's own statement, I want to see the existence of magic as undecided. I want that coming-of-age story that is part of our world and I also want the magic world story. One of the powers of this book is that one can have both.


message 25: by David Sven (last edited Jun 11, 2013 12:54PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments @Douglas - Your analogy between architecture and literature may work when applied to the specific issue of whether the magic in the book is real or not. However, I think it misses the point of the larger issue of authorial intent. Sure, the reader can get some meaning out of a book that may not have even occurred to the author. But just because there are some things that are vague or subject to interpretation it does not follow that therefore there are no incorrect interpretations. If the architect had built office spaces, the observer can tell just from looking at the work that the architect intended to build office spaces instead of a carpark or apartments. Another observer may come along and then say "It's holiday apartments, right?" No it's not. "But it could just as easily be, right?"
Sure it could - but we know from the room style that this is not what the architect intended. The observer could further continue to insist that they still thinks it is a block of apartments.
They may argue that they are free to interpret as they like - but that doesn't necessarily mean the interpretation is rational.


Steve (plinth) | 177 comments David Sven wrote: "Sure it could - but we know from the room style that this is not what the architect intended. The observer could further continue to insist that they still thinks it is a block of apartments.
They may argue that they are free to interpret as they like - but that doesn't necessarily mean the interpretation is rational."

I agree with this and feel that since we have a definitive word from the author on the matter, any other interpretation you put on it (which you're welcome to do) falls into the realm of "Blessed are the cheese makers" from the Life of Brian.


message 27: by David Sven (last edited Jun 11, 2013 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Steve wrote: "I agree with this and feel that since we have a definitive word from the author on the matter, any other interpretation you put on it"

I don't quite agree on that. I still think the reader is right to expect clarity in the text where clarity was intended. If she intended a particular interpretation then she should have made it clear in the narrative. She still can only claim to have written what she's actually written - not what she intended to write. She is still bound by the common conventions of language and culture between her and her target audience


message 28: by Douglas (new)

Douglas Weber | 16 comments David: I think you seem to have missed the point of the story. What it demonstrates is that it is possible for authors to produce something that contains more than was intended. From this it follows that what the author says the intent was, while important information, cannot be the final word on the analysis. It is possible to add meaning to a work that is not really there; there are probably plenty of PHD theses to prove that.
Extensions of analysis that go beyond the author's stated intent need to be treated with suspicion, they can still be valid or all the reinterpretations of Shakespeare we see in this world are evil.It needs to be remembered that it is always possible that the author created more than was intended.David Sven wrote: "@Douglas - Your analogy between architecture and literature may work when applied to the specific issue of whether the magic in the book is real or not. However, I think it misses the point of the ..."


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Douglas wrote: " I think you seem to have missed the point of the story. What it demonstrates is that it is possible for authors to produce something that contains more than was intended. "

But we are talking about meaning and language in written works. If you have to use Architecture to demonstrate the point then it only really demonstrates that it is difficult to make the argument from literature itself.

Douglas wrote: " From this it follows that what the author says the intent was, while important information, cannot be the final word on the analysis"

I'm talking specifically about the author's intent as expressed in the text - not as expressed in an external interview or press release. If Jo Walton wanted us to believe the magic was real, then she should have made it clear in the narrative.

"It is possible to add meaning to a work that is not really there"

Yes, but that doesn't mean it is not possible to distinguish between what is "really there" and what is "being added," unless the author has been deliberately vague or failed to be clear in the text itself. It also doesn't mean that what is "being added" is necessarily a rational interpretation of the text.


So just on the 30% I actually read before lemming the book, I was not sure whether the magic was real. I assumed the author had left it open to interpretation. I assumed this was her intent up till that point.
Whereas if I read Sanderson's Mistborn for example, or Harry Potter, there is no doubt that the magic is real.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Exactly. Interpretation should be based on textual evidence, since the text is what we know as readers. That is not to say we should not question the text, rather, you have to have some basis in the text for interpretation.


Meghan (mesulli) | 14 comments In regards to author's intent, (apologies because I can't find the original link/quote) I believe Neil Gaiman has said that one a writer's story is out there the particular intent and interpretations of it no longer belong to the author, but rather to each individual reader.


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Meghan wrote: "Neil Gaiman has said that one a writer's story is out there the particular intent and interpretations of it no longer belong to the author, but rather to each individual reader. "

Not with regards to meaning, no. Meaning is determined by grammar, how words are associated and arranged in relation to other words. An author arranges those words in a way to convey meaning. A part of that may include associations that are only meaningful in a specific cultural or historical context.

For example, I'm reading Abaddon's Gate. Who's Abaddon? A demon from hell - so we as the reader could substitute for the title "Hell's Gate." But only if we were aware of the Biblical reference. Someone who is unaware of that association may speculate that Abaddon is the name of a smurf and one of the gates might lead to smurf world. This might even be a more fun interpretation of the title. But, for the reader who is aware of the association of the title with the Biblical reference it is not rational to deny the association and the author's intended meaning or that the association is not obvious from the text.
Having said that, you can't appeal to the author's intention if that intention is not clearly expressed in the text - such as the reality of the magic in Among Others.

I think my main problem is that I don't see that the text in a work is distinct from the author's intention. I assume what I'm reading was written with intention even if that intention is to leave certain things open for interpretation.


Julian Arce | 71 comments Uhmm, what about the cane? It was a physical object presented to her by the fairies which everyone else could see and interact. I think that, along with Wim seeing fairies are good arguments for the "magic is real".

On the other hand, I didn't like the final confrontation, both with the fairies and her mother. In all the book Mor has an intuitive grasp of magic, and understand that it works by moving things a little bit so a chain of coincidences makes the end result. I like that view of magic... but at the end she finally graps the "pattern" and goes al Uber-magic... and I didn't like it. Would have preferred to be this subtle thing all along.

What do you feel about the fairies? I was interested on how Wim tried to fit them in some sort of class, like ghost or elves... as if the way they perceive the fairies have more to do with their personalities and expectations, more to an actual shapoe they have. The way Mor describes them gives me this feeling of a projection of the unconcious


message 34: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil | 165 comments Julián wrote: "Uhmm, what about the cane? It was a physical object presented to her by the fairies which everyone else could see and interact. I think that, along with Wim seeing fairies are good arguments for the "magic is real""

That could have just been something that she found in the woods and imagined / claimed was a gift from the fairies. There was a fair amount of 'fairy porn' in the woods near the playground by my house.


Julian Arce | 71 comments Neil wrote: That could have just been something that she found in the woods and imagined / claimed was a gift from the fairie"

But it was described as a beautiful piece, and perfectly matched to her height... unlikely to have simply been found... unless we go for the angle that she is hallucinating the whole thing, on which case she could have bought it and then claimed to find it (and then say at school that it was a gift)


message 36: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil | 165 comments Julián wrote: "But it was described as a beautiful piece, and perfectly matched to her height... unlikely to have simply been found... unless we go for the angle that she is hallucinating the whole thing, on which case she could have bought it and then claimed to find it (and then say at school that it was a gift) "

I'm not saying it makes sense I'm just putting it out there as a possibility. I'm very much in the 'magic is real' camp myself. I just wanted to play devils advocate and use the term 'fairy porn'.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments I am in the magic is real (mostly) camp too, but I often wondered what her connection to reality really was at times. The psychology of the character is never really enumerated or resolved.


message 38: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil | 165 comments Yeah I did spent a fair amount of time at the start of the book wondering if all of the magic was going to be in her head. I did think that the magic would develop and become a bigger and more 'real' aspect of the book but that was in part down to me thinking that it probably wouldn't have been a S&L pick if it was all imagined.

I don't think that all of the magic played out in the way she thought it did. Particularly the 'karass' spell magicking up the whole book club. I don't think that the book club was itself the karass she thought it was.


message 39: by Tina (new) - rated it 1 star

Tina (javabird) | 666 comments Douglas wrote: "...I will be honest, in spite of the author's own statement, I want to see the existence of magic as undecided. I want that coming-of-age story that is part of our world and I also want the magic world story. One of the powers of this book is that one can have both.

I agree. I also thought the magic came across as ambiguous, in spite of what the author says she intended. The way I read this was like a child who firmly believes magic is real and believes their thoughts and wishes can cause events. As the child matures into an adult, they begin to lose the belief in an imaginary world and start to see the difference between fantasy and reality.


message 40: by Skip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Skip | 517 comments I like the magic in this book. It fits well with the rest of the book, where a more structured magic system would have felt too clunky.

I also believe the magic is real, but I understand Nathan's point. If you made an editorial change to the cane thing, you could have sold the book as a non-genre fiction about a troubled girl making sense of her life after escaping her abusive mother. I think the magic being real makes it a better story, but the question has to be there in a magic system based in faith. Magic in this book is subtle and interwoven in the world, it really fits, like the vines growing over the ruins where Mor finds her fairies.


Scott | 312 comments I think Walton did a good job making magic seem real. As I said on the faery thread, if such things were real, it is unlikely they would fit the popular image. In this case, I don't think magic would exist as a list of spells, curses, and the like. And, like with faeries, I think Jo Walton, did a great job branching away from that.


message 42: by James (new)

James (oneinfinity) | 1 comments I agree with those who think the best 'version' of this book is the one in which the reality of the magic is left ambiguous. I really wanted that to be the case, but was bitterly disappointed that Walton felt it necessary to 'instruct' us as to the correct reading in the text itself. I can't quote the book directly since all I have is the audio version, but in the section concerning Aslan as allegory for jesus, and how she shares Tolkien's distaste for it, Walton seems to be pretty deliberately attempting to steer the reader away from reading the magic as anything other than being real. Very annoying.

In my personal experience with this narrative, I just think the book is much stronger if the magic question is left ambiguous, or even if it were explicitly resolved as not being real at all. See, I want this narrative to be taking place in the same world that I live in. If it does, then I can strongly identify with this character. I can think about how, in January of 1980, I was turning 13 years old; and how I had recently finished reading The Lord of the Rings for the 1st time and was walking around trying to see things far in the distance like Legolas in Rohan; and the Elric books, and Dune, and how much I loved fantasy and science fiction and how it all seemed to come to life in my mind: that was magic! I mean, I can still think of all those things as I read this book, and I did, and that was one aspect of it that I truly enjoyed; but the thing is, if the magic is real then this story doesn't take place in the same world I live in, and, sadly, I feel that puts an unnecessary (and unwanted!) distance between me and the main character. I feel like it's just too distracting. You start wondering things like, "Hmm, well if fairies and magic are literally real in this world then why is everything else exactly the same? why are all the books she talks about books that actually exist in this world? wouldn't there be some books or something that exist in her world but not in ours?" etc.

I was reading the passages about magic as purely creative writing: a sort of blending of actual happenings, wish fulfillments, daydreams, musings born of reading fantasy and sci-fi, etc. The book is presented as a journal so that makes perfect sense to me. There's no reason to think that any or all of what we are presented with is a purely objective relation of actual events. Especially if you look at the book as being semi-autobiographical, then you know that the protagonist grows up to be a fantasy novelist. Wouldn't you expect to find lots of fantasy-esque passages in her teen-years journals? Looked at from that perspective, I thought her idea of magic was really cool. But I don't like being told by Walton, either in the book itself, or out of it, that "the magic is real." Bleh.

[Overall though, I thought it was a pretty decent read. I doubt I'll ever give it a second read, but I did love all the references to books, many of which I read myself at around that age. I was a bit peeved that she didn't like P. K. Dick! But she loves Delany so she ain't all bad!]


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments Totally agree that the author shouldn't be making such a fuss about how she thinks the book is less ambiguous than most readers take it to be. However, Two points:

1. The magic in this world operated in such a way that it could conceivably exist in a world totally parallel to our own, without it ever coming to the attention of the average person. The world isn't very different from our own because the magic is so incredibly subtle, and so few people know about it. (1a. I *do* think the whole teenager-suddenly-seeing-faeries-with-little-effort was a bit ridiculous. While magic overall didn't break my suspension of disbelief, Wim had me thinking that every emo teenager who wants to get lost in a fantasy world should be able to see fairies, and since this narrative was billing itself as a world so like our own, that was problematic)

2. If the character is whole, if the character is written in a way that is true, than no matter how fantastical the universe she inhabits, a reader should be able to identify with them.


Meghan (mesulli) | 14 comments Rob wrote: "Totally agree that the author shouldn't be making such a fuss about how she thinks the book is less ambiguous than most readers take it to be. However, Two points:

1. The magic in this world opera..."


I agree whole-heartedly. I think once an author writes a story, no matter the intent, they need to be willing to accept the myriad of interpretations from readers.

James wrote: "I agree with those who think the best 'version' of this book is the one in which the reality of the magic is left ambiguous...."

I really think I like the book better with the magic at least ambiguous if not completely a figment of Mor's imaginations.


message 45: by Dan (new)

Dan | 6 comments David Sven wrote: "Meghan wrote: "Neil Gaiman has said that one a writer's story is out there the particular intent and interpretations of it no longer belong to the author, but rather to each individual reader. "

N..."

Now I have not read the book, yet-but have it. I have read Sanderson, Butcher, Eddings, Koonts, King et al, so with most of their writings there intent about magic is clear but usually the antagonist is not. Interesting twist but leaving it up to the masses to derive intent will get most "Blessed are the Cheesemakers". But makes for great review and revelations after the fact. Gives me a right odd state of mind, however, starting fresh with it now.
- I thank you all!


message 46: by Robert of Dale (last edited Jun 24, 2013 07:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robert of Dale (r_dale) | 185 comments James: I couldn't have put this better myself. I don't like the insistence that people place on authorial intent. Doing so feels like they're trying to curtail my own imagination as I dovetail the story into my own life and viewpoint, or speculate on what happened after the end, before the beginning, or in the gaps between the action.

One thing that does occur to me, however, is that magic being real doesn't make this story separate from our own world. There are millions of people who believe in magical phenomena; Members of the Wicca faith cast spells and believe that magically induced harm is revisited upon the caster 3 fold. It's not a metaphor for them. There are Christians who believe the dried blood of Saint Januarius, contained in a vial, can become liquid again from the power of prayer and ritual. There are probably hundreds of examples of real people believing in things whole-heatedly, that I see as trickery or self-delusion. But that doesn't make me right, or their experiences to be of another parallel world--You can't prove the non-existence of something, unless there is proof of something that cannot co-exist with that thing.


Julian Arce | 71 comments I think that what makes it more magical is the separation of cause and effect. In our every-day world we live with a somewhat integral knowledge of causes and effects in our lives.

Magic is forcing a connection, where no obvious connection might exits. Throwing a flower in a pond which makes a factory go down. A chain of coincidences that strecth in everyway both in time and space. What happens here has an effect somewhere else, and maybe at a different point in time.

Mor actually has a hard time when she tries to make the connection obvious (like with the bus), all the little connections that would had to be made in order for magic to work. But that is actually a more "adult" or common-world way of thinking of magic, of rationalizing it. Less magical even.


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