Sorcery is usually seen as a great power, but in Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness magic can be a dark curse. Reason Cansino has had an unusual childhood, as her mother Sarafina keeps the family traveling through Australia, trying to outrun Esmeralda, an evil witch and Reason’s grandmother. After Sarafina tries to kill herself, Reason finds she is now in the custody of her grandmother. If she had any doubts about Esmeralda working spells, one trip to the basement cures her uncertainty and sends the girl on a search for answers about her family background. Magic runs throughout her family tree, and Reason seems to have a choice of using the evil power or going mad. With the help of her neighbor Tom, Reason tries to escape her grandmother’s grasp and goes through a door that sends her to New York. Some hard lessons are learned as Reason searches for a way to make her life more than a choice between two unhappy paths.
Colleen Cahill is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Library of Congress.