Reviews for Question of Magic
Booklist Reviews 2013 November #2
"Welcome! You are the new Baba Yaga and the mistress of this house." This message, writing itself upon the empty pages of a book, forms the core of Baker's appealing original fairy tale based on Russian traditions. Gradually, young Serafina comes to understand the rules of this strange new role she has inherited: she will answer truthfully to the first direct question a person asks--any kind of question--but she will age after each answer. (If she feels threatened, she can ask her chicken-legged house to take her away.) How will she ever return to her normal self and marry her beloved Alek? As she has done with The Frog Princess (2002) and other titles, Baker reweaves folklore elements into a lively fantasy for middle-grade readers. Ingredients include suspense, magic, romance, and humor, as well as a gentle reminder of the futility of war. Readers will appreciate the way sensible Serafina steps up to her new role; the comfort of her cat, Maks; and the satisfying solution. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
When Seraphina inherits a legacy from a mysterious great-aunt, she doesn't expect it to include a cottage that walks on chicken legs. As the new Baba Yaga, Seraphina takes her role seriously even as she tries to escape it. While a few story strands feel forced, readers eager for another folktale backstory will enjoy this romantic fantasy.
Kirkus Reviews 2013 August #1
Set in the days of yore in Eastern Europe, this charming tale features Serafina--intelligent and good-hearted third-born daughter--who unwillingly but gamely takes on the burden of an unexpected, unusual inheritance while also working to extricate herself and instead marry her childhood sweetheart. "Welcome! You are the new Baba Yaga and the mistress of this house." These words appear in an enchanted book that Serafina finds when her family sends her to visit Great-Aunt Sylanna's cottage--replete with chicken legs and a talking cat--in Mala Kapusta. Serafina soon discovers her primary duty: Whenever a person visits her, they may ask one question, which she answers truthfully in an unsolicited, ancient voice, with knowledge channeled from magical wisdom. The book's strength lies in its showing how Serafina uses her accumulating knowledge to effect positive changes in her own and others' lives. There is an unconvincing thread about how she doesn't think she will be able to convince her parents that magic exists; after all, scores of people line up for her sorcery daily. The book slyly combines fairy-tale tropes, such as a happy ending, with modern sensibilities, such as the advantages of literacy and the ravages of war. Overall, the humor and relationships created by Baker are happily reminiscent of such classics as Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986), which is pretty good company to keep. (Fantasy. 8-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 August #3
Baker (The Wide Awake Princess) continues to weave enchanting new stories out of fairy tale lore, this time pairing the legend of Baba Yaga with a strong-willed heroine. Serafina is happy with the life she leads in her small village, spending time with her family and Alek, the best friend she has fallen in love with. Then a letter from a mysterious relative arrives, promising Serafina an inheritance; when Serafina goes to claim it, everything changes. Serafina becomes the new Baba Yaga, a witch cursed to answer any question honestly, though a person can only ask her one question in a lifetime. Now Serafina is stuck living alone in a cottage that scurries around on chicken feet, with only talking skulls and an immortal cat for company, and townsfolk seeking her wisdom on a regular basis. Each answer Serafina gives ages her, and only a magical blue rose tea can reverse the process. Serafina's longing to return home and her desire to use her powers for good combine create a sympathetic character in this neatly plotted and satisfying fairy tale. Ages 8-14. (Oct.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2014 February
Gr 3-6--When Serafina's great-aunt Sylanna invites her to claim her inheritance, the girl's life is changed forever. Traveling to find her long-lost relative, Fina learns instead that she has inherited the title of Baba Yaga and the power to answer questions, no matter how complex, with words and a voice, over which she has no control. Resistant to her new position, she tries unsuccessfully to escape both the chicken-legged flying cottage that is now her home and the talking skulls and magical cat that inhabit it. However, when she discovers the newfound wisdom she acquires with each response, she succumbs to her fate. Meanwhile, her sweetheart, Alek, vows to bring her home. Fina-Baba Yaga instructs him on how to achieve that goal and is then kidnapped. Despite wars and other difficulties, Alek succeeds in his quest, and Fina, escaping her captors, returns to him and happily passes on her powers to her friend Dielle-the next Baba Yaga. While details of medieval life anchor the story in its realistic setting, its juxtaposition with a fantasy world inhabited by giants and fairies brings a different, broader dimension to the tale. Baker includes just enough sorcery to add a bit of intrigue and tension, and there are enough well-plotted twists and turns to keep interest high. The dialogue is fluid and often abounds with humor, especially in Fina's conversations with both her visitors and her skulls. Although she is the only truly well-developed character, both Dielle and Alek have enough mettle to prevent them from becoming mere caricatures. This amusing title is sure to win the hearts of girls who crave an active protagonist.--Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI [Page 65]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.