The Magicians of Elephant County
Adam Perry
Harper, 2018

A children's fantasy novel in which only half of the magic is fantasy.

Duncan and Emma are magicians -- stage magicians, to be precise. This is not one of the classic ways to become popular in middle school, and indeed this is one trick they have not managed. One day, Duncan is pushed by local bullies into approaching the most feared house in town -- it's a witch's house, and he does magic, see? -- and learns rather suddenly that real magic does exist, and it's a bit scarier than one reads about in books.

Things escalate quickly, and Emma and Duncan soon find themselves in the middle of a deadly magic battle, resulting in the destruction of much of their hometown. I won't tell you much more than that, because spoilers, but there's no harm in telling you that buildings and bridges blow up, as the story takes the form of the kids giving verbal testimony of events to the police, and apologies for very specific disasters appear early on in the book.

This was a fun and quick read, with some neat facts about stage magic and a lot of action. It has a clever twist at the end, and a fair number of plot wrinkles along the way. The characters, setting, and magic system seemed just a bit light and glossy for a book in which the main characters are 11 and 12 years old, but not by much; I found the writing style to be less satisfying than, for example, Harry Potter, but still engaging.

This is a good book for young readers who like magic, adventure, and stories with interesting real-world information, being much more fun and child-like than When You Reach Me or Three Times Lucky, but still fitting somewhere in-between the two. While I don't think it quite hits the quality of Wendy Mass's novels, fans of the Willow Falls Series might find this to be their cup of tea.