Thirteen-year-old Sacha lives in New York City's Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century. Or does he?
The sights and sounds and smells, social ills and rampant racism and anti-Semitism all seem to be as they really were. But hexers are all around, and the regulars at the Metropole CafÃ© are learned witches and wizards from the top European universities. Astral Place is named for an important family, and J.P. Morgaunt rules just about everything. Sacha can see magic even when it's hidden, so he is drafted into the Inquisitors, the arm of the police dedicated to eradicating magic, at least among the poor. What follows are wild adventures involving spells and dybbuks and deathly struggles between good and evil. Moriarty beckons readers into this alternate universe and makes even the most bizarre elements totally believable. Sacha, Lily and Inspector Wolf are all fully developed and multilayered characters, as are the many other distinctive personalities that appear in the tale. The author employs rich language and syntax that please the ear and touch the senses, making it all come alive, especially the very real magic of New York City itself.
A marvelous, mystical romp that doesn't ignore reality. A hint of a possible sequel whets readers' appetite for more: Yes, please! (author's note) (Fantasy. 12 & up)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Adult SF writer Moriarty (Spin State) makes her children's book debut with a fabulously imaginative historical fantasy. Set in an early 20th-century New York City where every ethnic group has its own magic--Jewish bakers sell "mother-in-latkes," guaranteed to provide the perfect son-in-law--the story concerns 13-year-old Sacha Kessler, who discovers an ability to see magic and gets apprenticed to Maximillian Wolf, an Inquisitor specializing in solving magical crimes. Sacha is pleased to have a job, but his grandfather is an illegal Kabbalist and his Uncle Mordechai is a Trotskyite Anarcho-Wiccanist, so he has his secrets, too. Wolf, Sacha, and snooty Lily Astral (a fellow apprentice) are on the case when someone attempts to murder Thomas Edison using a dybbuk. Other figures, historical and not quite, become involved, including Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, and the wizard of Wall Street--James Pierpont Morgaunt. Moriarty's novel is chock-full of period detail (both in the author's confident prose and Geyer's occasional pen-and-ink illustrations), feisty character dynamics, and a solid sense of humor. It's a fascinating example of alternate history that leaves the door open for future mysteries. Ages 9-12. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC
Gr 4-7--This novel is based on an interesting premise, but its realization falls short of its potential. Sacha Kessler lives in an alternate history in which people are capable of magic, which is illegal, and policed by Inquisitors, whose mission is to stop it. He can see magic is being worked, earning him the position of assistant apprentice to the foremost Inquisitor in New York City, an unlikely position for a Jew. Shortly after he begins his prestigious class-defying job, he discovers a dybbuk, a creature from Jewish folklore, has been set loose and he must stop it from killing Thomas Edison. The Inquisitor's Apprentice has the innocent appeal of a "Hardy Boys" novel set in 19th-century New York (with magic). The simple black-and-white illustrations support the time frame. While the content and art will appeal to younger readers, the quality of writing, details, jokes, and class commentary targets the book at an older crowd. Unfortunately, instead of satiating both, it satisfies neither. A number of Yiddish words are difficult to understand in context, further deterring many readers. The plot moves slowly, but will keep kids hooked in the beginning. As the story progresses, however, it becomes more convoluted, culminating in a confusing and hurried ending. Several class issues are raised throughout the book and often associated with ethnicity. While this is appropriate for the time, it will leave many readers with an uncomfortable feeling.--Devin Burritt, Jackson Memorial Library, Tenants Harbor, ME[Page 133]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.