Reviews & Awards

covers of the Magic or Madness books

Magic or Madness

Winner, Andre Norton Award, 2007

Shortlisted, New South Wales Premier’s Award, Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature, 2006

“Magic or Madness . . . has everything it takes to be an instant classic for smart, curious kids who look to fantasy for more than escape—who look to fantasy literature to stretch their understanding of the real world.”

Cory Doctorow, boingboing

“In this fierce, hypnotic novel, character, story, and the thrumming forces of magic strike a rare, memorable balance . . . Readers looking for layered, understated fantasy will follow the looping paths of Larbalestier’s fine writing, as graceful and logical as the coiled chambers of Reason’s ammonite, with gratitude and awe.”

(starred review)

“Larbalestier has wrought beautiful and fearsome magic in this novel . . . [her] sense of place and refreshing exploration of magic as a force for both good and evil make this novel unusual. By turns a fantasy adventure and a thoughtful examination of relationships, this radiant gem stands alone, but expect readers to be impatient for the rest of the trilogy.”

—School Library Journal
(starred review)

“In a market flooded with fantasy novels, this book stands out, thanks to Larbalestier’s unique ideas and fresh voice. Here there are no dragons, cauldrons or flying broomsticks, just magic that is as personal as a thumbprint and as vital as blood.”

—The Star (Malaysia)

“The story unfolds with stylish prose, authentic voice and clean pace that is sure to attract adult readers as well.”

Brisbane Courier-Mail

“While this is technically a fantasy novel, the very real world that’s created will enchant anyone who reads it.”

—Australian Family Circle

“A cleverly creepy fantasy with likable, complex characters and a sinister conclusion.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Larbalestier’s tight prose and sure plotting result in clear characterizations and a thematically unified, compellingly detailed story in which deceit and sabotage impact every decision and no one’s intentions can be trusted, not even those of Reason herself.”

—BCCB (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“Magic or Madness takes place in Sydney and New York City, and both are drawn with such vivid detail that . . . both become equally alien, equally disconcerting, and equally enticing. Larbalestier captures the culture shock that an unwary traveler can fall victim to when even countries where English is spoken can seem impossibly different from each other, and where even that English can sound like a foreign tongue. This is the first fantasy I’ve ever read that gets the effect of having a character transported to Elfland without ever leaving the fields that we know.”

Green Man Review

“Two sides to every aspect of life characterise this amazing novel. Sydney and New York; female and maleEsmeralda and Jason, the grandparents, Reason and Tom; madness and sanity. Numbers of threads or connections between these polarities make a rich and satisfying story. Highly original and a must read for fantasy lovers.”

—Reading Time (the CBCA magazine)

“Larbalestier’s ethereal first novel keeps readers guessing to the end about what’s real and what’s not.”

—Des Moines Register

“Delightfully quirky characters . . . a refreshingly different take on some familiar tropes.”


“This gripping novel features rich parallel universes within wholly credible realistic settings in both hemispheres.”

Wisconsin State Journal

“[Magic or Madness has] mystery and treachery and characters that you’ll care about and more mystery and a very cool magic system.”

Bookshelves of Doom

“A vivid and uncompromising portrayal of magic and the consequences of power.”

Holly Black
author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Tithe and Valiant

Magic or Madness is a breath of fresh air. The characters are unforgettable, the voice delightful, the plot tense and compelling. This is the kind of book you take in at a gulp and, having reached the last page, put down reluctantly. More please!”

Karen Joy Fowler
author of The Jane Austen Book Club

“Unusual and familiar; edgy and sweet; gentle and tough, and often, not a little scary. Magic or Madness offers no pat endings, no easy heroines or villains; just the way that magic should be. I can’t wait for the next installment.”

Nalo Hopkinson
author of The Salt Roads

“Just when you thought there was no new magic in the world, Magic or Madness breaks the speed of light and disbelief, with an exciting new set of questions that kept me turning the pages wondering what would happen next, and how. I loved the characters: good, bad, and creepy, they switch off roles and keep you guessing . . . just like real life. Only more so.”

Ellen Kushner
author of Thomas the Rhymer & Swordspoint
host of PRI’s Sound & Spirit

“A wonderful first novel with an enchanting protagonist—a young witch named Reason, who doesn’t believe in magic. Equally compelling are Larbalestier’s portraits of the two cities in which Reason’s adventures unfold: New York, and Sydney, Australia. This book is serious fun.”

Delia Sherman
author of The Porcelain Dove & co-author of The Fall of the Kings

Magic Lessons

Shortlisted, Locus Award, 2007

“A refreshing alternative to the conventional depiction of young wizards as a lucky elite . . . this fast-paced tale delivers plenty of surprises, shadings and shocks.”

The Washington Post

“[A]n engaging adventure for older teens looking for sharply written fantasy.”


“”Larbalestier creates complex relationships among her characters, and their realistic flaws, combined with the sense of danger throughout, makes this a good choice for even reluctant readers. Details about how Reason and her friends perceive and use magic add to the realism and immediacy of the story.”

—School Library Journal

Magic Lessons is a taut, angsty read with a great page-turning pace to it, and is further proof that all the interesting genre books are being written for Young Adults right now.”

As If: Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus

“[Readers] will race through this second one and wait anxiously for the . . . end of the trilogy.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“[Magic Lessons] echoes its predecessor in creating a convincing atmosphere of paranoia and menace, where the only clear motive of the characters is self-interest, and everything else is open to question. Fans of the first book will be absorbed in the dark continuing drama and further explanation of the notion of magic as disease rather than gift.”

—BCCB (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“Magic Lessons does what only the best sequels do: it takes what we thought we knew and turns that on its head.”

Holly Black, author of Tithe, Valiant and The Spiderwick Chronicles

“Expect a certain kind of madness to come over you as you you slip into Justine Larbalestier’s Magic Lessons. Work piles up, phones ring unanswered, friends and family go ignored because you can’t bear to pull yourself away from this sexy, unsettling, utterly original work. When you finish the last page, you’ll be as hungry for more magic as Larbalestier’s characters. The book is a gem.”

Melissa Kantor, author of Confessions of a Not It Girl and If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince?

Magic’s Child

Shortlisted, Locus Award, 2008

“[A] crackling blend of fantastic adventure and soap-opera angst with vivid splashes of Aussie and American slang. . . Adolescent readers will be left pondering their own hard choices.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Reason is a sympathetic and conflicted protagonist, and her struggles are fully realized . . . a strong conclusion to a compelling trilogy.”

School Library Journal

Magic’s Child brings the series to a really satisfying, complex conclusion that’s both brave and thought-provoking.”

Cory Doctorow, boingboing

“It’s just brilliant how Larbalestier winds this story upa bit dark, a bit sad, and entirely appropriate. She gives us the reality of magic, its bitter truth and consequences.”

Colleen Mondor Bookslut

Magic’s Child does everything that the third book of a trilogy should do, and then some.”

As If: Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus

“The trilogy is tightly written, a roller coaster ride all the way, with no wasted space.”

January Magazine

“This series, which bounces from NYC to Sydney with accompanying twists of slang, takes place in under a week. In that week, young people fall in love, get smacked around by golems, learn to control magic, drink too much, keep their energy away from bloodsucking grandparents, rescue crazy parents and oh, so much more.”

The Eugene Weekly

“Full of unexpected turns and surprises. An amazing conclusion to a wonderful series.”

Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside.

“In this thoroughly satisfying conclusion to a wonderful trilogy, Justine Larbalestier creates an intricately plotted world populated by the sort of characters you wish you could spend an afternoonat least!hanging out with. The sort of series you finish reading, then immediately reach for the first book to start all over again.”

Cassandra Clare, author of City of Bones

“Larbalestier delivers the big finishlove, fear, and family. Her prose is lovely, her characters charming, their situations dire. Her readers are happy. How does she do it? I suspect magic.”

Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club

Magic’s Child is a thrilling, heartrending, and thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the best fantasy trilogy I’ve read in years.”

John Green, author of Looking for Alaska

“Justine Larbalestier puts magic into an utterly real world. The streets of New York and Sydney are threaded with wonders, but money, love, mental illness and mutual suspicion still rip people upand even the most powerful teenage magic-wielder can suffer a broken heart. I’ve been reading this series with terror and awe; Magic’s Child is a spectacular conclusion.”

E. Lockhart, author of The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book and Fly on the Wall

“Magic’s Child is like metaphysics, spirituality, and love, all mixed into a beautiful, haunting story. It’s big and true and wonderful and sad. And best of all, redemptive.”

Lauren Myracle, author of TTYL and TTFN

“The Magic or Madness trilogy is a rare treat: a naturalistic glimpse of a world in which magic is a dark gift indeed. Magic’s Child concludes the series with Larbalestier’s signature style of bewitching images, heartbreaking choices, and of course, the beauty of math. (Or, as Reason would put it, maths.)”

Diana Peterfreund, author of Secret Society Girl