The Inquisitor’s Apprentice

Harcourt Children’s Books  2011

“The day Sacha found out he could see witches was "the worst day of his life,” but it is a great day for readers of historical fantasy.  Chris Moriarty’s The Inquisitor’s Apprentice combines magic and religious mysticism in a compelling novel full of interesting characters and a great setting. This well-written book begins when thirteen-year-old Sacha Kessler makes his discovery standing in line in Mrs. Lassky’s magical bakery.  This might not have been the worst news had the Inquisitor not been there, too.  According to Sacha, being an Inquisitor is no job for a nice Jewish boy.  The Inquisitor is one of the special police officers charged with regulating magic in New York. Along with society snob Lily Astral, Sacha is assigned to the enigmatic and notorious Inspector Wolf, a man who wears dirty shirts and has glasses, even though Sacha is sure he doesn’t need them.  Lily and Sacha quickly begin an unlikely but realistic friendship.  All the characters are interesting and likeable but the star of this book is Moriarty’s re-imagined turn-of-the-century New York.  It is a magical melting pot where each ethnic group has its own brand of homegrown witchcraft as well as host of historical characters.  Sacha and Lily’s first challenge is to find out who is trying to kill Thomas Edison.  For readers who love history or fantasy, Moriarty has created an interesting, detail driven story filled with dybbuks, famous figures and hexers.  That said, the co-existence of traditional religion, faith and magic might trouble some observant readers.  Early in the book, when Sacha’s mom does not make it back from the market until after sundown on Friday, they may wonder if the Jewish experience is authentic.  If you can forgive this detail, what a reward!  The reader will quickly be swept away by the great plot, characters and themes.  Moriarty is ambitious.  The Inquisitor’s Apprentice addresses real world themes of religion, class, immigration and prejudice.  It’s a well-written story, highly recommended for readers ages 10-14.  Period ink illustrations by Mark Edward Geyer enhance the reading experience. 

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