magic -- fiction
The young king Tamar was awakened in darkness by the sound of elephants in his courtyard. Their jeweled tusks and golden banners proclaimed them the property of a great maharajah. In short order, a dark figure strode into the palace and demanded an immediate audience.
Tamar sighed heavily.
As his tutor reminded him, the principles of Dharma--the code of honor, conscience, and the obligation to do what is royally virtuous, meant that he could not refuse an audience to another king, no matter the lateness of the hour. Indeed, in the long-ago world of ancient India recreated in Lloyd Alexander's The Iron Ring, a king's honor is his most important possession.
The mysterious visitor, King Jaya, ruled the distant land of Mahapura where, he grandly informed his host, all was much better than in Tamar's own kingdom of Sundari. Musicians, dancers, food, all were better in Mahapura, King Jaya purred. The only distraction he sought from Tamar was a simple game of aksha. Pure luck would determine the rolls of the dice.
In all hospitality, Tamar could not refuse, although the stakes Jaya proposed would have fed the court for a month. Die-roll after die-roll, Tamar won. Then the king of Mahapura yawned and made a final wager: "Life against life."
This time the dice seemed to jump from Tamar's fingers of their own accord.
"King of Sundari," Jaya said, "you have lost."
It was the goat that gave it away.
Some young wizards-to-be discover their destinies through an engraved invitation. But for Sparrowhawk, unscrubbed and unbiddable goat herder on the island of Gont, an overheard word in the true, magical language was enough to get him started. Not just one stubborn goat but the whole herd was brought to heel with a single word. Clearly the lad had potential.
Cassel Sharpe, wearing only his underwear, awakes to find himself slowly slipping off the icy roof of his school dorm. He’s clueless about what landed him in such a precarious position (with certain death below) and is equally unsure about navigating his way back safely. Thus begins White Cat, the first book in The Curse Workers series, by Holly Black.
Cassel comes from a family of workers, a worker being someone—who with the slightest touch of a fingertip—has the power to place spells, change memories, or even kill. Although his grandfather, mother and brothers each possess one of the above-mentioned skills, Cassel appears to have been skipped when the special talents were being passed out. He tries to live a normal life away from the family madness by attending school at Wallingford.
Princess Celie’s favorite day of the week is Tuesday because that’s the day Castle Glower usually grows a new room or two, or a turret, or passage. Castle Glower’s favorite person is Princess Celie, the only one who has ever tried to explore and map the ever-changing structure. Castle Glower is not shy about making its opinion known. When the Castle decides Prince Rolf should be the King’s Heir, he awakes one day to discover his bedroom has been moved next to the throne room. Unwelcome guests find their quarters growing smaller and shabbier, while favored residents are housed in spacious comfort in Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George.
When the King and Queen disappear--ambushed and presumed dead--visitors from foreign lands arrive suddenly to advise Celie, Rolf, and their sister, Lilah, during the time of transition. But the Castle seems to know that something isn’t right and the plotters underestimate the Castle’s abilities. They also underestimate the courage and intelligence of the Royal children. The Castle creates a turret, stocked with useful items, that appears when Celie and her siblings need it. It provides a passage to a hidden room where the children can overhear the council’s scheming--complete with a magic cloak that muffles sound so the children will not themselves be overheard. Celie’s maps and her relationship with the Castle are the keys to saving the kingdom, the castle’s inhabitants, and the castle itself.
Peter Dickinson’s The Tears of the Salamander begins with a simple gift and ends with a magical legacy. When his seldom-seen, rich Uncle Giorgio gives young Alfredo a strange present on his name day, his parents aren’t sure they want him to have it. The golden chain doesn’t have the expected cross on it—from it dangles the golden image of a strange animal—a little lizard with splayed feet and other peculiar features. Alfredo’s older brother is very jealous. He sees nothing special in Alfredo. Sure, he can sing like an angel, but that’s not much use to a baker’s boy, is it?
The local priests see Alfredo’s gift differently. They want him in their boys’ choir, and he is happy to be there for he loves to sing—but he also loves baking and hopes to follow his father into the trade. When catastrophe strikes leaving Alfredo alone and friendless, the priests urge him to join the choir permanently, and he would have done so even though it would have meant giving up a normal life. But just at the crucial moment, his Uncle Giorgio comes to take him away to reclaim his birthright—the birthright his father refused by choosing instead to become a simple village baker.
Entwined, by Heather Dixon, is a new take on the fairytale of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The twelve sisters live in the kingdom of Eathesbury where their father the king rules with a firm and practical hand. Their mother loves to dance, and her joy and optimism are passed down to her eldest daughter, Azalea. On the eve of her death, their mother makes Azalea promise upon a silver handkerchief that she will take care of her sisters; and Azalea does just that, with the fulfillment of her promise being enforced by the magic of the silver handkerchief.
In A Tale of Two Castles, by Gail Carson Levine, young Elodie embarks on her journey to Two Castles with the warning of her family ringing in her ears: beware of ogres and dragons, and, even worse, the whited sepulcher. Elodie’s parents think she will apprentice to a weaver. But headstrong, independent Elodie dreams of becoming a mansioner--an actress. As she nears Two Castles, Elodie discovers that the free,10-year apprenticeships have been abolished. She does not have enough money to pay for an apprenticeship or to pay for the voyage home. What will she do? How will she survive?