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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Magic Made by Ashley Hayes is an endearing tale of adventure, danger, and sacrifice. Cole has a specific routine: stealing what he can from the market without getting caught before going to work at the mine for cruel drivers. He does what he can to protect the other boys working there but that only seems to get him into trouble. When he stands up against the General, he ends up in over his head and discovers a horrifying truth about where he came from and a terrifying obsession the General has for magic. But magic couldn’t possibly exist. That’s only the start of his troubles. After managing to escape, he takes his chances in the woods and nearly becomes ant food when a mysterious stranger saves his life. Now, he has to figure out who he can trust but as those closest to him betray him, he learns to harness the magic within him and discovers a dangerous secret that could cost him his life.
The setting is unique and springs to life with cities that float in the sky and a vast desert which divides the rich above and the poor below. Hayes blends three popular genres for an unforgettable adventure that weaves together elements of science fiction, dystopia, and fantasy. The story takes place below on the earth where life is rough, and everyone struggles underneath a cruel rule. The mines are the main source of work for these young boys who barely make any money to survive and are forced to endure daily abuse. Cole is constantly driven to help those around them, which stems from his own tragic past that pushes him to defend the boys against abuse and even paying for medical bills he can’t afford. This heart is Cole’s most enduring quality but is used in a unique and complex way that helps create him as a well-rounded character. The story is action-packed and fast-paced as Cole works to survive against forces that have their own plans for him.
One of the biggest themes that Hayes explores is a sacrifice that directly ties into Cole’s journey and the choice that everyone tries to make for him. The characters are all flawed and each fits into the theme of right and wrong, with everyone having a different perspective on what that means. Some have a heroic view on the idea while others choose a selfish drive for power as what’s right. Magic Made is a complex adventure and an emotional journey that explores themes of magic, sacrifice, heroism, survival, and the struggle between right and wrong.