The Inquisitor’s Apprentice

Chris Mori­ar­ty; Mark Edward Gey­er, illus.
  • Review
By – January 10, 2012
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. 

Read Chris Mori­ar­ty’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Sarah Aron­son holds an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from Ver­mont Col­lege. She is a full time writer and has recent­ly pub­lished her first nov­el, Head Case (Roar­ing Brook) for young adults. Sara blogs every Thurs­day for the Lilith blog.

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