You’ve heard of this book before: I was one of the stops on its blog tour back in January, where I interviewed author Amy Bond. You can check that out here, but today I wanted to actually review the book!
Book: Morgana Mage in the Robotic Age by Amy Bond
Publication date: 7th January 2021
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Chicken House Books. All opinions my own.
Morgana loves robots and longs to attend robotics school in the city.
But she’s a witch, living in a magical woodland community: the closest she comes to technology is petting her ancient mechanical familiar, Kitty. She simply doesn’t belong. But when she finally finds a way to the City, she learns of a troubling secret hiding beneath its gleaming surface: a secret that threatens the balance of civilization.
Caught between two worlds, only Morgana has the power to find a solution …
This book is adorable. It’s got a lot of my favourite middle grade elements – a plucky young witch, an unusual cat, a journey of self-belief – but does something really entertaining by mixing up the traditional witchy setting with a gleaming, tech-filled city. It’s an exciting contrast that is so well-described and easy to visualise, and instantly creates tension; the two societies really distrust each other, which leads to Morgana feeling not quite at home in either. This isn’t a world where magic is secret, just where it’s looked down on in the face of scientific progress, which I think will really speak to the kind of witchy kid that I was, who feels a bit adrift from everyone else.
Morgana herself is a really engaging heroine. I loved her mixture of determination and curiosity, and how she could even be a little selfish in her pursuit of learning – it makes it much more realistic when a character’s flaws are so directly linked to their strengths. She’s not perfect, and part of her development is learning when to let people in and when to think of others first – there’s obviously themes of compromise as she learns she can have the best of both the magic and the city world, and her budding friendship with Jonathan is a really sweet and subtle way to show this. Plus Kitty, her robot cat familiar, is brilliant – I wanted even more from her in the book!
There are some really interesting thoughts here about technology, and particularly AI, and this works on a sci-fi thriller level as well as a witch-discovers-her-strength story. I don’t want to give too much away, but the secrets of the City are super exciting and intriguing, and will really get kids thinking (especially if they’re in a household with Alexa or another robot assistant!). The second half of the book is action packed, but still thoughtful, which I really enjoyed – I just think it’s all very clever.
This is one I’m looking forward to rereading, and would recommend to anyone who is or was fired up by learning and knowledge, or who feels a bit out of step with their community. It’s sweet, fun, and ever so entertaining – I only wish it was a series! Five out of five cats.