I feel like I’m teetering on the brink of an epiphany about a shift in children’s and YA fantasy here. It’s also possible, though, that it’s one of those things that seems profound until you look back on it, and then it’s merely stupid. I’m not drunk at the moment and it isn’t 3AM, which may at least lesson the chances of that happening.

There are lots and lots of kids’ / YA fantasies from recent built around the theme that it’s wrong to take or deny someone’s magic. There are Charmed Life, Witch Week and Howl’s Moving Castle from Diana Wynne Jones, for instance. There’s Harry Potter’s aunt and uncle denying his talent and refusing to tell him the Wizarding world exists. There’s Lily’s evil mother in Holly Webb’s eponymous book, Bethany’s uncle in the Erec Rex books, and the corrupted Guardians in Kat, Incorrigible. In Tamora Pierce’s Daja’s Book, Frostpine gets very upset when Daja’s magic is given away even though it’s for a brief time to a trusted person. In Diane Duane’s Wizards at War, it’s the adult wizards who lose their magic first, along with any sense of the numinous.

There are also times when someone is standing in their own light, blocking their own magic, and needs to overcome the block – Alma Alexander’s Gift of the Unmage, for example. I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something here that I just read, but anyway, it happens in adult books also, like Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches.

On the other hand, in older books, magic is always being revoked or taken away – there are the endings of The Dark is Rising series, and every magic book by E. Nesbit and Edward Eager.

I wonder if it’s part of a whole cultural shift, in which our ideals move away from fitting and accepting the world as it is, and more toward (in our fantasy, at least) valuing individual uniqueness and considering suppression of individuality to constitute emotional and sometimes physical abuse? (See, for instance, Ana Mardoll’s close reading of Little House in the Big Woods, in which she more or less concludes that what is portrayed there is not so much a wholesome life in the Good Old Days as a mix of equal parts of food porn, child abuse, and gender stereotyping.)