Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Magisterium

Magisterium

Jeff Hirsch
Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-0545290180

More than a hundred years ago, on May 5, 2023, a huge explosion devastated a large portion of the Earth. Millions of people died as a result of the explosion, and in the aftermath when approximately a third of the plant was blanketed by toxic ash and radiation. By the time humanity began to get back on its feet the Earth was divided in two. There was the part that was uninhabited and desolate, the part that the Rift destroyed. Then there was Colloquium, where humans survived and then thrived, rebuilding to create a world full of technological marvels. People from Colloquium never cross the border into the area that was destroyed by the explosion. Why should they. There is nothing there.

When Glenn Morgan was only six years old her beloved mother disappeared. Glenn never knew what had happened to her mother, and from that time onwards her brilliant scientist father took refuge from his grief by working on The Project, an invention that consumed his time and his energy completely.

Now sixteen-year-old Glenn is eager to leave her life behind, and she is hoping that she will be able to skip fourth year in school so that she can attend the Deep Space Service Academy. Her goal is to complete her education in time so that she will be eligible to join a manned trip to go to an Earth-like planet called 813. Glenn’s grades are good enough for skipping the fourth year, but her father does not seem to understand how badly Glenn wants to do this. He is too wrapped up in The Project to pay attention to what she is saying to him, and to sign a form from school that will allow her to skip the fourth year.

Soon after Glenn forges her father’s signature on the school approval form, her father announces that he has made a breakthrough with The Project. He has created a device that will allow him and Glenn to cross over the border into the desolate land on the other side. He insists that they have all been lied to by Authority, the government, and that the Rift was not some huge explosion. Instead, it was an event that created a place where people live “in a reality based on an entirely different set of rules.” The device he has built will allow them to safely cross over into that territory to rescue Glenn’s mother. He is sure that his wife was captured or trapped in that place and that he and Glenn can save her.

Glenn is so convinced that he father is losing it, that he needs help, that she goes to talk to her friend Kevin’s father, who is a doctor. She has been visiting Dr. Kapoor ever since her mother disappeared and she hopes that he can help her dad. But that is not what he does. Instead, he tells Authority about Mr. Morgan’s invention and they issue a warrant for his arrest. Kevin, who is Glenn’s only real friend, comes to tell her about the warrant, and he warns her that they need to run away, but before they can do so Glenn’s father is taken into custody.

Even though Kevin tells her that his father is in cahoots with Authority, Glenn insists on going to see Dr. Kapoor. She soon finds out that Kevin was right. Dr. Kapoor is working with her father’s captors and they want the device that Mr. Morgan gave Glenn, a bracelet that will allow her to cross the border, taking the rules of her reality with her.

Kevin and Glenn manage to escape and they head for the border. They are pursued by armed Authority soldiers and Kevin is shot. All seems lost when a monstrous beast appears and it protects Glenn and Kevin, carrying them in its arms away from Colloquium, deep into the country beyond the border.

It is only later, while they she and the monster, Aamon, are treating Kevin’s wound in a village, that Glenn finally understands what her father meant when he talked about different realities. On this side of the border, in Magisterium, technology from her world does not work. On her side of the border in Colloquium, the magic of Magisterium does not work. Which is why the two sides have peacefully lived side by side for more than a hundred years. However, if Mr. Morgan’s device gets into the hands of Authority or its counterpart, the Magistra, then the peace will end, and all-out war will surely follow. The bracelet on Glenn’s wrist has to be destroyed as soon as possible, but finding a way to do this, and getting herself and Kevin back home safely is not going to be easy.

This remarkable book takes readers into a future where the world is a changed place. There is the society that has all kinds of marvelous technology, which is what we expect; but there is also the society where magic is commonplace and where said magic can cause all kinds of problems if it is not tightly controlled. Glenn’s journey of self-discovery is fascinating, and readers will be intrigued to see how she and Kevin come to terms with the truth that has been kept from them their entire lives.

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