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A Question of Magic - E.D. Baker

A very interesting premise based on Russian mythology. Baker takes the cautionary tale of Baba Yaga and spins it into a curse that young Serafina must cope with when she is thrust into the job. She can answer the first question anyone asks of her, but only one. Not only that, doing so causes her to age at an increased pace. This means Serafina has to deal with losing her past life and possibly lose her life if too many people ask her questions before she can find the magic potion that reverses her aging.


While the idea is wonderful and makes for a lot of interesting dilemmas, such as the consequences of what the truth might be, Baker really doesn't capitalize on them very much. Most of the novel involves her answering questions, going to different places, and sometimes running away from rough looking thugs by calling on the chicken hut to move to another place. Serafina is largely passive and leaves the curse breaking for her childhood love to do off-page. There are many ways for a character to be strong, but the major problem is that Serafina doesn't really grow or change based on these very trying circumstances, and the people who are changed by her questions often never come back into the story save for three people or so. Various interactions with villagers asking her questions make her annoyed, sad or hopeful, but even the moments with the talking skulls or her cat seem to be pleasant filler rather than propelling the story.


It's a nice novel, but one that lacks a real character arc or forward momentum for kids who need their adventures to have tension. Perfectly nice for those who like a leisurely paced fairy tale inspired fantasy with good, if not very multifaceted, characters.