"And I said, 'Yes, yes, all right, I know who you are, you're Dustfinger—I even know your name, you see.' At which he cowered in awe before me—a magician, he thought, who seemed to know all about him and who had plucked him out of his world as easily as picking an apple off a tree." (16.16)
Mo's account of bringing Dustfinger over to our world is an interesting one. Wouldn't you consider it magical if someone plucked you out of your reality like scooping up a lab rat from a cage? How else would you explain it? Especially if, like in Mo's case, this person seemed to know all about you.
"To think of all the times I've wished I could slip into one of my favorite books. But that's the advantage of reading—you can shut the book whenever you want." (16.49)
Elinor is a book-lover extraordinaire, but even she doesn't know if she'd actually want to live inside one of the books she likes once she learns that such a thing is possible. For one thing, it'd be hard to adjust to a new world, and for another, it might be irreversible. Thanks, weird-book-magic, for making us consider things that we normally think of as impossible.
I'd like to bring them out of books, touch them, all those characters, all those wonderful characters. I want them to come out of the pages and side beside me, I want them to smile at me, I want, I want, I want… (19.109)
When Meggie hears her father read out loud for the first time (that she can remember), she's blown away by how amazing it is. And as we see here in her thoughts, she wants the same ability for herself. It's normal to witness something awesome and want to do it yourself, but it sounds like her wish—as it's expressed here—is a tad on the selfish side. Once her wish comes true later in the story (due to magic… or genetics… or something else), she learns what a burden it can be.
"It was beautiful!" she said.
"Yes, but will it like this world?" asked Mo. "And what is gone to replace it in the world it came from?" (23.87-88)
The way that Mo's reading-magic works, it's almost as if the Law of Conservation is in effect—if a being crosses from one world into another, something must take its place. This rule seems a little flexible, as some mammals are substitutable for each other (cats for people, in some cases at least), but we never get to see a truly thorough and scientific explanation of how this works.
"So the next thing to do," he murmured, "is to play on Basta's superstitions. What a good thing I gave him that little weakness. It was a clever move." (42.69)
Fenoglio, talking to himself here, definitely views Basta's superstitious obsession as a flaw. After all, it's something he can use to persuade Basta that certain actions will bring good luck or bad luck, which is definitely something Basta cares about. It makes us wonder whether superstitious people in general are easier to manipulate or deceive.
"Parsley and spiders!" Fenoglio laughed quietly. "What a fool you are, Basta! I'm not talking about children's magic. I mean the magic of the written word. Nothing is more powerful for good or evil, I do assure you." (45.10)
Apparently grown-up magic is serious business. None of this kiddie stuff, like using common household items to put hexes on people. We don't know how much of this Fenoglio is straight-up inventing, but he must be saying the right things because Basta buys it and brings him supplies for putting a curse on Mortola using written sigils.
Dustfinger placed a hand on the coffin. "You see, the fairies have taught me how to lay a curse on someone. They were sorry for my cut face, and they knew how bad I am at fighting." (49.45)
Down in the crypt (already a place with creepy, potentially supernatural, vibes), Dustfinger begins to lay a verbal curse on Basta. Basta freaks out and starts to try to get his hands on Dustfinger, and in the ensuing fight, Dustfinger manages to get Basta's knife away from him, thus getting the upper hand. Did fairies really teach Dustfinger how to lay a curse? We don't know—but since Basta believes it, Dustfinger's words sure have a powerful impact, acting almost like a curse in their own right.
The maid scurried past Meggie again, looking frightened as if any contact might burn her. (53.21)
Maybe Basta's not the only superstitious one around Capricorn's village—when word gets out that Meggie can read people out of books just like her father can, the servants begin to treat her with respect and/or fear. Some call her a witch. Others, like the maid described here, try to avoid touching her. Is touching witches bad luck? Perhaps according to some folks.
"A famous writer once wrote, 'An author can be seen as three things: a storyteller, a teacher, or a magician—but the magician, the enchanter, is in the ascendant.'" (59.5)
If writing is a form of magic, maybe it's not so far-fetched to have people with the ability to bring characters from books to life. Besides, writing good stories is hard. It definitely takes a lot of practice, just like (we assume) learning magic out of spellbooks.
"After all," she said, "many people here have little enough patience or understanding for their fellow human beings who are only superficially different from them—so how would it be for little people with blue skins who can fly?" (59.14)
Elinor hits the nail on the head: the characters that populate fantasy and sci-fi novels are often way different than normal human beings here on non-supernatural Earth. Since we already have plenty of misunderstandings and conflicts with our fellow human beings, how would we handle meeting supernatural critters like fairies or trolls?