Magic Lessons and Magic’s Child

Magic LessonsJustine Larbaelstier [Magic Lessons at LibraryThingMagic Lessons at Amazon; Magic’s Child at LibraryThingMagic’s Child at Amazon]

After discovering that magic is real and deadly in Magic or Madness, Reason’s story continues. In the second book of the trilogy, she and her friends Jay-Tee and Tom begin learning how magic works and what they can do with it. But their lessons are interrupted when what seems to be a magic monster begins stalking Reason and causing trouble. But it turns out the creature may not be out to hurt Reason after all… and it might just hold the answers Reason is seeking.

Warning: there is no real way to review the third book without spoiling major sections of the second, so yes, there will be uncovered spoilers below. Don’t click if you’re the sort who avoids spoilers!

So, first off: these books are great. Neither one is as great as the first book in the trilogy. But they are both solid, good reads. So let’s see, where to begin?

Both of these books share time more significantly, skipping back and forth between Reason’s first-person POV and Jay-Tee’s and Tom’s third-person POVs. This has both good and bad points. Jay-Tee and Tom are compelling characters in their own rights, but at its heart, the story is about Reason, and that she has less page-time, combined with another matter I’ll get to in a second, is a disappointment. Furthermore, Jay-Tee and Tom go from being acquaintances who snap at each other a lot to dating awfully quickly in the third book, and a lot of their story goes from being about their different experiences and decisions dealing with magic to a story about two teenagers starting a romance. It’s well written (though awfully abrupt, especially on Tom’s part) but not what I was reading for, so I was a little disappointed.

Magic’s ChildAs for Reason, she develops a huge crush on Jay-Tee’s brother, Danny. And in Magic Lessons, they sleep together. Now, I was pretty sure that there was a magic reason for this and was glad to be proved correct in the end, but it still caused me to wince. Because Danny is a mature (especially sexually) eighteen-year-old, and Reason is a very young 15—she’s never had social interactions with anyone but her mother until very recently, and never had anything even remotely resembling a relationship. For them to have sex after only knowing each other for a few days made me uncomfortable as a reader, even though it was clear there was more going on that met the eye.

Which leads to this: the third book is called Magic’s Child for a reason, and it’s because Reason is pregnant. And while it very much tied in to the plot, I’m not sure why it was necessary and again, the whole circumstances surround it made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t a bad plot element, but it didn’t do it for me. It also ties into another problem: Reason loses a lot of her autonomy as the books progress.

In the first book, Reason is a great, dynamic character. But in the second, she’s injected with something she doesn’t understand—a jolt of strangely altered magic—against her will, and it leads indirectly to her pregnancy. Once pregnant, the same being that injected her literally fiddles around inside her body, changing her to the core, altering her DNA—again, without her consent. This leaves her with much more magic, and the more magic she has, the less interested she is in what’s going on around her. She withdraws into a world of pure magic, as a way of cutting off the emotional pain she’s going through. It makes sense plot-wise, but is a lot less interesting to read about. She gets pulled around by events, instead of directly confronting them, and even when she does take matters into her own hands, she’s distant and uninterested, and thus, not very engaging. She remains that way for most of the last book, right until the climax. It’s a disappointment.

One other disappointment: the magic is confusing. Um, this is even more major, specific spoilers through the epilogue of the last book, so I’ll cut: show

But, with all that said, they were still darned engaging reads. There were several points I especially liked in Magic’s Child. I loved Jay-Tee losing her magic and how she coped (and didn’t cope) with it. The way she has to relearn her favorite hobbies—running and dancing—is fantastic; it reads almost as someone recovering from an accident that has left her disabled. Her mental battle is great.

Second, the diverging decisions Jay-Tee and Tom make with regards to magic is very interesting and well done. Jay-Tee’s magic is gone, and had to be removed to save her life, but Tom is not in that situation. Tom can probably live into his 30s or 40s, using his magic sparingly and without going mad. He’s only a teenager, and that feels like a whole lifetime to him, and he is unwilling (perhaps even unable) to give up his magic when he has the opportunity. And of course the ways people react to that differ greatly, but are well done—in fact, the differing reactions of various characters losing their magic are well done.

Of course, the writing remains rich and, for all my disappointments, it’s a very engaging, well-written series. They both earn four cupcakes, and I will definitely be grabbing Justine’s next book when it comes out.


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