Ordinary Magic: A Great Middlegrade Fantasy And Not At All Like Harry Potter

Ordinary Magic is written by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. It was published in 2012 by Bloomsbury. Rubino-Bradway’s page on Goodreads can be found here.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade


“In a world where having magical abilities is considered normal, Abigail Hale’s life is about to become a lot more interesting. That’s because Abby has just been judged an “ord”—someone without any magic.




Fortunately, Abby enrolls in a school that prepares young ords for getting along in the world despite their unmagical disabilities. But with treasure-hunting kidnappers to avoid and hungry goblins lurking in the shadows, learning how to be ord-inary is one thing…surviving the school year is another.


Mr. Graidy cleared his throat. “No one was hurt.” He paused for a moment. “Mr. Hale, Mrs. Hale. I fear I have some unfortunate tidings. It pains me to have to tell this to anyone, let alone to a distinguished couple such as yourselves, whom I have always regarded as pillars of our fine commun—”

“Get to the point,” Mom exploded.

“She’s an ord.”

“Beg your pardon?” Dad asked. Only Dad could sound totally relaxed and totally serious at the same time, while eating a cookie.

“She didn’t even make it past the first stage,” said Mr. Graidy. “She has nothing. She is nothing. She’s an ord.”

~Rubino-Bradway 13

“Look, I get that you’re attached to the girl, but she’s not your sister anymore. She’s an ord, and ords are dangerous if you don’t handle them right.”

Olivia started to tell him exactly what he could handle and how he could handle it when Dad charged into the living room. “What’s your offer?” The guy was huge.


“No thank you. Good-bye,” Dad said.

“—thousand. Ten thousand,” Barbarian Mike said.

“No thank you. Good-bye.”

“Twelve thousand. Fifteen.”

“Good-bye,” Dad said. My brothers and sisters were grinning.

“What do you want? We’ll pay anything.”

“I want you to leave.”

The woman threw up her hands. “You people are unbelievable. I’m going to take this up with the Guild. They told us there’d be an ord. That’s our ord, we get dibs.”

~Rubino-Bradway 48

“So which brother is the author? Jeremy or…Gilbert?”

“Gil, but he doesn’t write under his own name because his editor said he’d get better sales if he had a fake lady’s name. So he writes romance novels as Miranda Blythe.”

“Miranda Blythe?” Becky grabbed my arm; she’d gone pale, and her eyes were very wide.

I nodded. “He has a new one coming out next fall, called Race Against the Wind or Racing the Wind, I forget which.”

Her fingers tightened on my arm. “Race the Wind?” she asked breathlessly.

“Yeah, that’s it. How did you know?”

“She announced it on her fan channel. Dimitrios hooks me up on the ball at least once a week so I can check in. I have been waiting for over a year—your brother is Miranda Blythe?

~Rubino-Bradway 219

Cover Art

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

This is a very good (and I’ll attach the adjective “cute” on there as well, because it is) middle-grade book, and I wasn’t expecting it to be. I thought it would be decent, but it surprised me by being better than that.

I loved Abby’s family. I love it when the protagonist has a big, foible-y family.

It has great promise as a series, especially since the ending isn’t quite wrapped up all neatly; there are still a few questions left to answer (namely, will _____ be all right and are Alexa and _____ romantically involved? Although the latter is implied, I would still like an outright confirmation. Like a wedding).

It also has great promise as a world in and of itself, with magic and rules and customs, etc. I’m excited to see more of this world.

I also enjoyed the characters, even the bad guys. The way Rubino-Bradway wrote the main antagonists was very commendable—they weren’t just straight evil villains the whole way through. As time went on, you saw their motives, their emotions, etc. They became more sympathetic; they become less like villains and more like people. For a middle-grade book, where usually the villain is very typecast evil, it was enjoyable and refreshing.

What I Didn’t Like:

I would have liked to have seen Abby interact with more students except for her fellow first-years. It was if no one else went to the school except for them. Technically, they are separated by year, but still…it didn’t seem quite right (or maybe I’m unjustly comparing it with Harry Potter).

I realize that this has nothing to do with either Harry Potter or Ordinary Magic

I mentioned above that the world has great promise, but I would have liked to see more of it in this book. I couldn’t quite capture in my head the way magic worked or what it looked like (and why are all children treated like ords until they’re twelve, and, since they are, why was Abby’s room drained of magic after she was discovered to be one, if it hadn’t bothered her before?). The rules of this world—regarding magic, anyway—weren’t quite clear. I would have liked a clearer picture than the one I received.

Overall Review:

Ordinary Magic is a wonderful book that hopefully is the first of more to come. While lacking in some regards, it is full of lovely characters, funny moments, and lots of charm. It will, unfortunately, probably get perhaps too much comparison to Harry Potter, which is sad since this book is quite good and is more dissimilar to Harry Potter than one might think.

Coming Up Next: Series Week! Starting on Friday!

One thought on “Ordinary Magic: A Great Middlegrade Fantasy And Not At All Like Harry Potter

  1. I have to say I so got into Ordinary Magic. I know that Rubino Bradway has written in a very different genre before but this one took me by surprise at how it drew me into Abby’s world. I also agree about what many people brought up – Abby’s family. I loved Alexa, I their parents and the way they related to each other. I am tired of the “dysfunctional” setup and loved seeing a “functional” family!

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