Sunday, May 06, 2012

Ordinary Magic

Hawkins, Rachel. Spell Bound.
This much anticipated third book in the Hex Hall series started off by making me laugh, as usual. "Sure, it's awesome when you're using (magic) to change your hair color, or fly, or turn day into night. But for the most part, magic tends to end in explosions, or tears, or with you flat on your back in the middle of nowhere, feeling like a tiny dwarf is mining for diamonds inside your head. Okay, so maybe that last bit was just me." (page 3). Sophie is back, having lost her magical powers, but she is accompanied by the ghost of her friend Elodie. When she is attacked by members of the Brannicks, she ends up in their compound, where she finds her mother who is... a Brannick. This is a problem, since they hunt evil and consider Sophie's demon heritage a negative even though without her powers she is just human. This, too, is a problem because the Brannicks had hoped that Sophie would fight with they against the Prodigium and help them win. Sophie has some other problems as well-- how can she choose between her fiance, Cal, and her boyfriend, Archer? Hate to say too much and spoil this, but suffice it to say that there are a lot of good spells, political machinations, a fair amount of fighting, and a very sad romantic twist. I'll be very interested to see what Ms. Hawkins writes next!
Strengths: The snarky humor makes this stand out in the vast sea of paranormalish books, and I liked that Sophie was key to the epic battle. I'm very glad that they didn't decide to change the cover-- the series looks awesome together.
Weaknesses: I find that I forget a lot of the details between books, so it would have been good to have a little more recap. Now that the entire series is out, readers can finish them all together, and this will be less of a problem.

Rubino-Bradway, Caitlin. Ordinary Magic.
Bloomsbury USA, 8 May 2012

On the day of her Judging, twelve-year-old Abby is very excited. After all, her older brothers and sisters are all doing well in their careers in magic, so chances are good her level will be really high as well. Unfortunately, Abby is an "ord" and has no magic at all. This is dangerous in her society, where "normal" means magicking up breakfast and being able to fly carpets! It also means that ords are discriminated against; Abby can no longer go to her regular school, and is in danger of being taken by adventurers who need ords to circumvent spells and magic creatures. Luckily, Abby's older sister Alexa works at a school for ords that King Steve is backing, thanks to new legislation he has put in place to make selling ord children illegal. Abby is whisked off to the school, and the students are taught the topics presented in "normal" schools but also multiple languages (in case they get kidnapped!) and how to fight off red cap goblins who want to eat them! These skills are good to have when Barbarian Mike makes yet another attempt to kidnap Abby, and is finally successful. She manages to escape, and bring this adventurer to justice with the help of the king. There are still some adventures awaiting the ords, however, and I smell a sequel in the offing!
Strengths: This was oddly intriguing, and magical realism is something a lot of the girls have been asking for. Even though Abby and her friends are without magic themselves, they are certainly surrounded by it!
Weaknesses: As intrigued as I was, I was also somewhat confused by the setting. While there are magical creatures, mages, and some medieval elements, it also feels like the setting is modern, with a house and bedrooms and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Reading an E-ARC of this and not seeing the cover didn't help, but I still am having trouble envisioning the world, and since I am not a fantasy aficionado, realizing the setting is very important to me.

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