Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moriarty, Chris: The Inquistor's Apprentice

October 3, 2011
320 pages, Harcourt

Being an Inquisitor is no job for a nice Jewish boy. But when the police learn that Sacha Kessler can see witches, he’s apprenticed to the department’s star Inquisitor, Maximillian Wolf. Their mission is to stop magical crime. And New York at the beginning of the twentieth century is full of crime, with magical gangs ruling the streets from Hell’s Kitchen to Chinatown.

Soon Sacha has teamed up with fellow apprentice Lily Astral, daughter of one of the city’s richest Wall Street Wizards—and a spoiled snob, if you ask Sacha. Their first case is to find out who’s trying to kill Thomas Edison.

Edison has invented a mechanical witch detector that could unleash the worst witch-hunt in American history. Every magician in town has a motive to kill him. But as the investigation unfolds, all the clues lead back to the Lower East Side. And Sacha soon realizes that his own family could be accused of murder!

Welcome to steampunk 1800's Brooklyn. Crowds still stream in and out of Coney Island. There are the crowded tenements, overflowing with life and love and family in the midst of hard work and American dreams. There is Edison, the Wizard of Menlo...er, Luna Park, and J.P. Morgaunt and the Astral family all in their own pursuit of the best that money can buy.

And then there is Sacha, an ordinary Jewish boy who discovers that he has a not so ordinary (or wanted) ability: the ability to see the use of magic. Of course, this changes his life forever as he is quickly enlisted in the police department as the apprentice of the Head Inquistor, Wolf.

And so the adventure begins.

This is a story that definitely is geared towards a Jewish audience, but can also be enjoyed by younger readers (probably around the middle grades) that like a good adventure with a touch of mystery and magic and a possible monster running around causing havoc. It took me a while to get through, simply because I had to keep stopping and looking up unfamiliar words (not sure if they were Hebrew or Yiddish) and got a little confuzzled because of all the alternate history going on.

Sacha is an endearing protagonist, torn between his duty to his family and the gift (or curse, whichever way you might look at it) that is now an unerasable part of his life. Lily, the rich girl who could possibly become his friend if she wasn't so...rich, is at times overly inquisitive and sympathetic, and has the iron stomach of a man twice her age. I loved her at once.

Warnings: None.

And let's tally up the rating points! (I really need to clarify this system)

Points for:

Likeable protagonist


Historical detail

Cultural background

Final notes:

I'm hoping this will turn out to be a two-book deal, seeing as the author left the end a bit open. Definitely a book for younger readers, though, so I won't push it towards the YA crowd. This is the type of read you can offer a sibling before they're ready for the big steampunk leagues.  


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