A Bitter Magic By Roderick Townley

A deliciously quirky tale of secrets, magic, and illusions.

Everything is in place: the packed theater, the Amazing Thummel, and, center stage, the magician's mysterious assistant. Some have called her the most beautiful woman in Europe.

Then, in a swirl of light, she vanishes!

An astounding illusion, but she never reappears. All that remains are a bloodstained white scarf and her daughter, Cisley, who lives in a glass castle and walks her pet lobster each morning by the sea.

Enter Cole, a rambunctious boy from town and Cisley's first true friend. Together they hunt for clues to her mother's disappearance. They puzzle over broken mirrors, ever-shifting labyrinths, a closet full of whispering ball gowns, and a fatal quest for a pure black rose.

Roderic Townley spins a deliciously spooky tale of one girl's journey to discover what's real and what is simply an illusion. A Bitter Magic


A Bitter Magic is fantasy fiction that will appeal to ages 12 – 14. Cisley’s plight to find her missing mother is pieced together through magical clues revealed in the narrative. Sometimes predictable, readers may be slightly disappointed in the mystery, as all is not revealed in the last chapter. The tone begins at a breakneck pace that may leave young readers confused with what is happening. The narrative tends to jump, with Cisley’s thoughts moving quickly from one point to another without much transition. A strong reader would be able to keep up with the fast paced transitions, but a struggling reader would likely give up.
Girls with an interest in fashion will likely enjoy portions of the narrative where Cisley explores her mother’s closet. These moments hint at the coming-of-age transition that Cisley is experiencing. While these images are pleasing, some of the situations didn’t serve the plot and could be boiled down to contrivance. For example, Cisley discovers that when she hangs a dress in her mother’s closet, it magically becomes clean. If any damage was done to the dress, it is instantly repaired, so Cisley never has to deal with the guilt of damaging her missing mother’s prized possessions.
Librarians may want to take caution recommending this title to young children who are sensitive to blood and violence. The last chapter is particularly violent and contains descriptions of characters that bleed to death. There is also a small romance that takes place between Cisley and a boy, but there is no physical contact and it is treated with innocence. Recommend this title to tween or teen girls who enjoy fantasy novels. (Reviewed by Meghann MacMillan) English A glass castle and a black rose. Whispering dresses. A lobster on a golden leash. A Bitter Magic is lyrical and original, a tale of magic that avoids cliches and draws the reader forward with a dark family mystery. It subtly tackles class division and income inequality, and left me feeling uplifted and satisfied. A great read.
English *I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through my district library services*

I enjoyed the magic in this book, and found Cisley an easy protagonist to cheer for. However, I just wasn't totally engaged in the story and found the ending to be a bit too quick. I am not sure I'll be putting this in my collection. Definitely more for older elementary (there is a very bloody scene at the end), I'm not sure most readers will stick with this book. Maybe if you have some die-hard fantasy lovers who are looking for a mystery. English There is definitely enough suspense to carry you through, and I like the snarky main character and the very mysterious beginning to the book, but I had a couple big disappointments, especially near the end. The best part of this book is that Cisley has a pet lobster she can talk to! I so wish he had truly been what he seemed in the beginning, and that his character had played a bigger role in the story. I felt used when he was tossed aside so early on, and explained later to not quite have existed, at least not in the way we first think he does. I also wanted so much more from the mother-- we are never given enough of her backstory, never told why she is so aloof and cold. There are some almost-intriguing characters in this book that could have been made much more intriguing, but Cisley's jaded voice and a few unique and imaginative elements are enough to make this an interesting read. English This was a totally enjoyable read! It is a YA fantasy, coming of age story -- complete with first love. But it has some substance that is missing in so many YA books. Here we have a very strong female protagonist who has lost her mother (and does not know who her father is). She faces many challenges (no, I am not going to ruin the story by giving too much away) and makes mistakes along the way. The end is a little unexpected (I like it!) but positive and satisfying.


What an inventive story. Cisley's mother and uncle are famous for their magic shows. Thing is, Uncle is an illusionist but Mom is actually magic. But when she disappears for real one day (not a spoiler; this happens at the beginning), Cisley has to try to figure out what happened to her, as well as what her non-magical uncle is up to trying to get powers of his own in the forbidding glass castle they live in. The writing is good, the characters are well-drawn and the plot moves at a good pace with some interesting turns. English I would definitely recommend this book! The beginning is a bit confusing, but it makes more sense the more you read. I loved the twists and turns. English This book is really nice, I found this book in the school library. I couldn't stop reading and I want to know if there are other novels with this genre. A bit of fantasy, roance, fiction and suspense. English I loved this book. I read so much I usually guess what is going to happen before it happens. This book kept me guessing until the end. English I actually didn't read this, but here is what my fantasy-loving bookworm daughter says about this:

I didn't like this because it was weird and the end did not make sense. English

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