Monday, October 29, 2012

Inquisitor's Apprentice

The Inquisitor's Apprentice
By Chris Moriarty; illustrations by Mark Edward Geyer
356 pages, Ages 9 and up
Harcourt Children's Books, 2011

What’s a nice Jewish boy doing in a kid’s novel about magic, Wall Street wizards and robber barons? Chris Moriarty, who’s written a couple award-winning science fiction books for adults, wanted to write a story with a Jewish hero. This is the first of a new fantasy series set in an alternate-universe turn-of-the-century New York City.

In the early 1900’s New York was home to a diversity of immigrant neighborhoods.  Moriarty connects to that history, weaving together the growing union movement, the traditions and magic of many races, religions and cultures, and the disparities of the gilded age to create a new and vibrant whole.

Sacha, who’s managed to get through his bar mitzvah without showing an ounce of magical talent, suddenly finds himself apprenticed to the NYPD Inquisitors. Their mission is to stamp out the illegal use of magic – and it turns out that Sacha can see magic. After a harrowing test – “a five-hour multiple-choice ordeal held in an unheated basement” – Sacha is teamed up with
Lily Astral, daughter of one of the city’s richest Wall Street Wizards.

Their first case is to find out who is trying to kill Thomas Edison. Edison, it turns out, has invented a mechanical witch detector, giving every magic user in the city a motive for murder. But the clues lead Sacha back to the Lower East Side and his family’s neighborhood. This is not good for a kid whose family is involved in uniting the Industrial Witches of the World (aka the “Wobblies”).

A delicious read for kids who like a dash of authentic history with their fantasy. This review is part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. Review copy provided by publisher.

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