Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I love me a good fantasy novel (especially one which hints at a series… yes?). I also like to see novels with good male and female main characters. Creativity and turning-stereotypes-upside-down are certainly not bad. Adventure? Danger? Boarding school? Cool magical creatures? Oh, this is all so British I can’t stand it!
Which no doubt explains why I enjoyed Ordinary Magic so much. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn great. What you have here is a deliciously fun novel for fantasy fans; others will enjoy it, certainly, but those of us raised on a steady diet of (preferably British) great fantasy will enjoy it a wee bit extra. In a post Harry Potter world, it’s extremely hard not to compare books like this to that same series. I’m going to resist, but there are some definite similarities.
On the day of her judging, 12-year-old Abby learns that she is NOT magical. Nothin.’ Nada. Zilch. No magical skills to speak of. This wouldn’t ordinarily be so strange except that in Abby’s world, that makes her STAND OUT. Not only is her entire family/town magical, but her family in particular has a pretty stellar track record. They got skillz.
When news of Abby’s judgment (“Ordinary”) becomes known, she learns a shocking truth: people don’t just scorn “ords;” they sell them, get rid of them, shun families because of them. She’s not allowed back in school, her family is encouraged to send her away somewhere, etc. etc. Of course, because this is a wonderful fantasy novel, we know that Abby is going to succeed somehow. I’ll leave those details for you, the reader, to find out.
Suffice it to say that there is danger involved, adventure, a band of friends, magical creatures (and, of course, “ords”), a king with Kingsmen who can suddenly appear out of thin air, a budding romance, flying carpets, self-sacrifice, boarding school, and all those marvelous elements that often appear in rollicking good stories.
I really enjoyed Rubino-Bradway’s interpretation of a magical world through an “ord’s” experience. It’s a nice companion to the ways in which those different from mainstream often perceive the world–and often are more successful at navigating the usual pitfalls the mainstream folk suffer whilst enduring some special struggles all on their own. I also really liked her family. They stand by their own and bring others within their circle–Abby’s friends are helped and included even when their own families are wimps or unloving.
Recommended for middle grades but okay for younger, precocious readers as well