Monday, March 31, 2014

Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier

Title: Magic's Child
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Publisher: Razor Bill
Rating: Worthy!

What better way to finish out a magical, record-setting month than by closing out the Magic or Madness trilogy?! 31 reviews in 31 days, one review per day, every single day! Take that, Bembridge scholars!

So, this novel continues and completes the Magic or Madness trilogy. Magic Or Madness is reviewed here, and Magic Lessons is reviewed here. The series follows Reason Cansino after she has 'super magic' donated to her by her ancestor Jésus Cansino. This new magic begins transforming her as it transformed him - to the point where he became effectively inhuman - not so much in his mentality or behavior, but in his very substance. Reason can now close her eyes and see the world depicted in magical form, where 'muggles' appear as black spaces and all magic appears in glorious Technicolor™, making the real world seem gray by comparison.

As if this isn't enough for a fifteen-year-old to handle, Reason is now pregnant from the one time she had sex with Danny, Jay-Tee's 18-year-old brother. Yes, he's guilty of statutory rape and no, having sex for the first time does not grant you immunity from contraception. If you are both fertile, a pregnancy can result from any sex you have, even if the guy can manage the so-called withdrawal 'method'. Trust me, there's no withdrawal that doesn’t also involve a deposit.

Given Danny's apparent womanizing, having unprotected sex was appallingly irresponsible. Reason knew no better given how naïve she is, but Danny is an irresponsible jerk, especially since he subsequently pushes Reason away (she hasn't told him he's a daddy at that point). He insists that having sex was a mistake; that this should go no further, and that they should just be friends, but that's a bit too little, and a lot too late. He evidently has no taste whatsoever in women, too boot, if he's rejecting Reason (there's a double-meaning in that!).

Talking of reason, I have to give a warm nod to Larbalestier in her putting a stress on science in this series, but she doesn’t know much about DNA, it would appear. When Reason 'fixes' Jay-Tee (as evil Jason prophesied she would), by removing her magic and thereby saving her life, she achieves this resurrection through repairing Jay-Tee's genome. It’s apparently been 'fraying', which makes no sense. All of our genomes are 'fraying' in one sense: in that the telomeres which define genes are ever shortening throughout our life, but this is normal and natural. Some scientists think that this is how we age and die, so that part made sense, but as Microsoft often claims: it’s not a defect; it's a feature. If our DNA were really fraying in the sense which Larbalestier appears to mean, we’d be pretty much dead - not just dying - or at the very least, we'd be really sick.

Larbalestier describes Jay-Tee's DNA as being based on multiples of four. Well, guess what? Everyone's DNA is based on multiples of four! Your DNA is built of, and functions via four bases: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T), so this claim of Larbalestier's makes no sense. I think it's best, when writing about stuff which you try to tie to the genome, to say as little as possible about exactly how it's supposed to work! Unless you really know your topic, that is. Also: make sure you don’t claim that these powers with which you invest your characters are blossoming from a single a magic gene. One gene rarely does big things by itself.

Having said that, I really liked this novel and felt that Larbalestier has done a good job, overall, for the series. I'm not a fan of trilogies, and I admit to having some issues with this one, but sometimes an author can make them work, and make them worth pursuing, and this is such a case. Larbalestier takes full advantage of her trans-Pacific marital relationship and bounces back and forth between Sydney, Australia and New York City USA once again in this volume. This time she makes it personal as evil Jason flies to Sydney and spirits away Reason's mentally-challenged (from refusing to use her magic) mom. Why Reason, with her enhanced powers, failed to see this coming is more of a problem than figuring out how magic-empowered Jason managed to get Sarafina away from a health-care facility, but once again, the game is afoot, and Mere and Reason travel by kitchen door to NYC.

Of course, we know how this ends - happily, but it takes some interesting twists and turns to get there. I recommend this trilogy. It's not perfect by any means, but it approaches closer to perfect than far too many trilogies these days.