These short pieces come from the proposal I wrote in order to sell the trilogy:


Magic is Everywhere

Everyone does magic. It’s just that they don’t know it. Have you ever heard the phone ring and known who it was before you answered? Or picked up at the exact moment that someone you wanted to call was calling you? Ever just known that someone was staring, even though they were behind you? That’s magic. Low-level magic: the kind that everyone can do.

There are very few coincidences in the world, but there is a great deal of magic. And not all of it is low level.

Imagine discovering that magic is real, and that you’re as good at it as Lauren Jackson is at basketball, as Jacqueline DuPre was at playing the cello. That you and many of your relatives have the gift of magic.

Or the curse of it.

Reason Cansino comes from a family with a talent for magic. But wielding magic has a high price and Reason is about to find out what it is.


Not all doorways lead where you expect them to.

One of the doors of Esmeralda Cansino’s house in Sydney, Australia opens onto East Seventh Street in New York City in the United States of America. On the New York City side it’s the front door of a brownstone; on the Sydney side it’s the back door of a Federation mansion.

All over the world there are doors like that. If you are magical enough (and they’re not locked) they will open onto somewhere wholly unexpected. All of them are located in populated centers. Doors cannot be imbued with magic away from people. The magic that animals generate only works on those things that are important to animals. Humans love their doors, they need them.

But even the best locks in the world can’t keep everybody out.

Reason’s Past

On the Run

Reason’s grandmother is evil. That was the first thing Reason can remember learning. Her grandmother was evil and she and her mother had to keep moving so that Esmeralda Cansino wouldn’t find them. Only much later did Reason find out that she was five years old before Esmeralda knew she existed. Sarafina was a fifteen-year-old runaway when Reason was born.

The second thing Reason learned was that names are crucial. Naming someone is a huge responsibility. You have to get it absolutely right. Sarafina thought long and hard about naming her daughter Reason. Reason is the opposite of magic. Reason is about logic and rationality. Being able to reason well, to be able to understand the world, is the only way to survive. Sarafina wanted her daughter to survive.

Reason learned to hold onto her name, to keep it close, even when she had to answer to other names, to pretend to be a Susan, an Amy, or a Jessica. When she and her mother were alone they were always Sarafina and Reason.

The third thing was to never make friends. That was the hardest one, the one Reason couldn’t manage. She liked people. She liked talking, joking, playing games, seeing who could scream the loudest, who could tell the funniest stories. People liked Reason in return. She learned to make friends quickly. Moving every few months gave her lots of practice.

They lived in small towns, often so small they weren’t really towns at all. In some places they weren’t welcome, because of Reason’s father, but that didn’t happen too often. Occasionally she would go to school, but mostly Sarafina taught Reason herself at whatever hotel, caravan park, settlement, or campsite they called home. Mostly mathematics, which they both loved.

By the time Reason was five she could recognize mathematical patterns in the number of petals in a flower, or ripples in a pond, she could figure out if a number was divisible by nine no matter how long it was (nine is Reason’s favorite number). She knew that any number multiplied by five would end in a five or a zero. (So far, all the major events in Reason’s life have happened when she was an age ending in a five or a zero.) Everything in the world, Sarafina taught her, is knowable, because everything is made up of numbers.

They read a lot. All sorts of books. Histories, books about different animals and countries, about the climate, the stars, the seas, the rocks and the earth. As long as they weren’t made up. As long as the stories had nothing to do with magic.

Living with Sarafina was interesting.

Custody Case

When Reason was still ten, which is divisible by five, Esmeralda Cansino found them. Or rather the police did. Reason was taken from her mother, but wasn’t given to her grandmother. She was placed in care, which meant staying in a school for kids without parents, a school from which you never got to go home. Her dorm had six bunk beds and smelled musty. Reason didn’t mind, she’d stayed in hotels and pubs that smelled a lot worse.

Some people came by who asked Reason lots of questions. Who was her father? Reason could answer that one truthfully. “I don’t know.”

“But you know what he was, right?” asked the man. The woman poked him sharply with her elbow, and raised her eyebrows.

Reason could tell he was in trouble for asking that question but she answered anyway. “He was an Aboriginie. But I don’t know what people. Mum thinks he said he was a Koori, but she’s not even sure of that. They were only together one night. It was in a hotel,” she added helpfully. She was pleased she had remembered to call Sarafina “mum” instead of Sarafina.

“Does your mum have a lot of different men stay the night with her?”

Another question that allowed Reason to tell the truth.

“No, never.”

They asked lots more questions. Most were about Sarafina. Reason said what Sarafina had taught her to say. A lot of what she said wasn’t true.

She didn’t tell them about any of the mathematical games they played. She didn’t tell them about the times Sarafina would shake uncontrollably and talk to people who weren’t there.

She told them about all the different towns and settlements she’d been to and which ones she liked the best. She didn’t say that her grandmother was evil, just that she loved her mother, and wanted to stay with her.

They had to go to Sydney for a court hearing. It was big and bustling and scary. Reason had never been to a city before. She was asked all the same questions and gave them all the same answers.

Sarafina had to sign a document saying that she would take the pills the doctors gave her and she would give Esmeralda access to her granddaughter. Sarafina signed the papers, threw away the pills, and then they ran away again.