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Literature / Half Magic

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Half Magic is a children's fantasy novel by Edward Eager, first published in 1954.

The children Katherine, Mark, Jane and Martha find a magical talisman that grants wishes — with the catch that it only grants half of what was asked for.


This novel contains examples of:

  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Martha sometimes annoys her siblings.
  • Author Appeal: The novel is set in Eager's childhood home Toledo, Ohio.
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  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Jane, angry at her siblings, starts to announce that she wishes she wasn't part of their family, remembers she's touching the charm... and turns it into a deliberate wish. Within a few moments of joining the family the wish makes her part of, she regrets it.
  • Compressed Hair: Katherine whips off her helmet after defeating one of King Arthur's knights, with her long brown hair revealing that she is female... and also nine years old.
  • Cool Big Sis: Jane.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: Katherine wishes to beat Sir Lancelot in a joust, and then has to unwish it when Lancelot is mocked by the other knights because he was beaten by a girl. Though in this case it's more that she wished to be five times better than Sir Lancelot at fighting without also wishing to not be, to all appearances, an untrained child.
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  • Literal Genie: Other than cutting wishes in half, the charm works this way. For example, Katherine wishes to beat Lancelot in a joust, but at first it's a Curb-Stomp Battle in the other direction, because she didn't wish to know how to joust or to be good at it.
  • Make a Wish: Later in the book it becomes deliberate, although the granting of the first few wishes is a complete surprise.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Katherine complains that Jane is the eldest, Martha is the baby, and Mark has his own status as the only boy, leaving her stranded in the middle.
  • Motor Mouth: An attempt to reverse the wish that Carrie the cat could talk results in her being silent half the time, and this the other half.
  • Numerological Motif: The charm requires the user to wish for twice as much as they want, which gets difficult when you must figure out how to be twice as much as half-visible.
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  • The One Guy: Mark is the only boy in his household.
  • Outnumbered Sibling: Mark is the only boy in a family of four children and his frustration with this is occasionally a plot point.
  • Parent with New Paramour: The kids introduce their mother to the new paramour, and are mostly quite happy with the whole situation — except that they think it'd be strange to call him "father", so he gets declared an honorary uncle.
  • Public-Domain Character: Characters from Arthurian Legend.
  • The Roaring '20s: Half Magic is set in 1924, though the year doesn't have a lot to do with the plot.
  • Speech-Impaired Animal: Carrie The Cat, who can temporarily half-talk thanks to an ill-considered wish.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Katherine at the tournament at Camelot.
  • Wasteful Wishing: Once they realize the charm is magic and figure out how it works, the characters avert this, being careful not to make too many wishes because they don't know how many they'll get.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Jane is against her mother marrying Mr. Smith, allegedly because stepfathers always turn out to be evil. (Actually, she's just uncomfortable with the idea of a stepfather because she remembers her father.)

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