Rubino-Bradway is a creative world builder, especially when it comes to the ords. In this world, an ord can cancel out magic, walking through magical security systems and wards, for example. That means an ord can cause a lot of trouble, even becoming a successful thief or, less independently, a carnival attraction. Of course, adventurers in search of magically guarded treasures like to send an ord in first—even if the ord ends up dead because of other, more physical obstacles. In this society, ords are considered to be subhuman, pariahs, and possessions.
But Abby's oldest sister, Alexa, who is one of the most powerful magic makers in the kingdom and works for the king, knows what to do. Abby must go to a special school for ords so she will be safe. There she will learn self defense, among other useful tricks for surviving in a world that treats ords very badly. Which is a really good idea, especially considering Barbarian Mike and Trixie are still trying to get their hands on an ord, whether Abby or one of the other students.
The writing is brisk and reader friendly, and the characters are a group worthy of Hogwarts. I particularly like the self-defense teacher, Becky, and an often-surly fellow student named Peter ("Peter has two modes: annoyed and golem."). Abby winds up in the clutches of the school cook, who seems determined to bring our wealthy heroine down a peg or two—as if being an ord isn't bad enough! We learn that the school is guarded by minotaurs as well as spells on the outer walls. But ultimately, it won't be enough to keep some horrific intruders out.
In Abby's world, magical creatures are just part of the scenery. Here Abby meets the minotaur who is the school's security chief:
Suddenly there was a mountain next to us, one with horns.
Mr. Dimitrios was a minotaur. A real minotaur; the hoofs, the horns, the tail, the nose ring, even the spear, it was all there. His horns were short, just peeking out of his floppy hair, which made him look young—well, youngish. Minotaurs don't really like people knowing things like how they age and how old they get. I had never seen a minotaur before except on those shows where they interview movie stars; huge and hulking in the background are the minotaur bodyguards. Which is probably why Mom and Dad were smiling so much as they shook Mr. Dimitrios's hand. If this school had hired a minotaur, even a young one, they were serious about security.
You'll find action, menace, and social struggle in this well-thought-out book from newcomer Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. Ordinary Magic promises to be the start of an intriguing new fantasy series for middle grade readers. (Ages 8 and up)