Book Review: The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty

The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publication date: October 2011
Pages: 356
Source: Library
For: Cybils

When one day Sacha can't see witches and the next he can, things go from bad to worse.  He's snached up to become an inquisitor's apprentice, to help eradicate magic from the streets of New York.  But when he becomes embroiled in a plot to assassinate Thomas Edison, his job and his life become a lot more complicated.  Will he be able to figure out who's trying to kill Edison before he loses his own life?

Things I Liked:
The story in this one had me caught in its web.  It intrigued, it surprised, it made me laugh and cry.  The book was more than its story though.  It had real characters - Sacha was so complicated and so vulnerable and so powerful at once.  I loved the view of society in New York during the early 1900s - the historical detail was fantastic.  The racism and the many different cultures, and the difference between ideals and reality and rich and poor in America.  All of this was cleverly reshaped with magic as its basis - a very well done alternate history.  I adored it.  Here's a favorite quote: 

Working miracles is like letting out a pair of pants: You can only stretch the fabric of the universe so far before you run out of cloth.  After that, you're stuck deciding whether you want cold ankles or a cold tushie. p 181
Things I Didn't Like:
It was a bit difficult at times to get into, mostly, I think because of the Jewish cultural elements I simply didn't get.  I think if I were Jewish or had grown up in NY with more exposure to Jewish culture, I would have thought this book was perfect.  But sometimes I didn't quite understand what a word meant and I definitely felt confused about what a dybbuk actually is for nearly the entire book.  Many Yiddish phrases were explained, but quite a few were not.  It might be a tough sell for kids and it might be they would see the story and forget about all that other stuff.  It just depends on the kid, I guess.

Reminded me of the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld
Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

s-factor: ! 
one or two

mrg-factor: none 

v-factor: -> 
a little bit, but mostly it has some scary elements

Overall rating: **** 

Do you like reading alternate histories with magical elements?  What's your favorite book like this?

Bonus: for more middle grade greatness, check out Jill at The Owl's March of Middle Grade Books event!

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