I know I said last month that I would be starting off the book review portion of this blog with “legacy” reviews. I even have 500 words written about The Hobbit. But instead I have decided to review a relatively new book that is exceptionally near and dear to my heart: Chris Moriarty’s “The Inquisitor’s Apprentice”.
IndigoChapters has this program where they encourage their employees to select staff picks. The books get stickers with the employee’s name on it, and the idea is that if you find yourself helping a customer in a section you’re not terribly familiar with, you can use the stickers as a help. Also, they’re guaranteed reads, like the Heather’s Picks.
Anyway, I had about fifteen picks by the time I left, but my absolute favourite book to sell was “The Inquisitor’s Apprentice”. We didn’t have any in stock when I started, but soon after I was hired, we got five. It was a Friday. By Saturday afternoon, I had sold them all. I asked the managers to order them in for me specifically, and two weeks later, I got 12 more. It took me three shifts to sell them. We didn’t get any more until the week after Christmas.
By the time my contract ended in January, I had placed that book in 21 pairs of hands. I had customers come back looking for other copies, but I’d sold them. I sent them to our other stores, or they ordered them online. Most of the books I love to recommend come with caveats. I don’t have any for “The Inquisitor’s Apprentice”. It’s just a fabulous book.
I’ve read a lot of books, and I have to say that this book might have had the best world building I have ever come across. It was just stunning. And the magic was so casual. It was just part of everything. And there were all these amazing Schools of Thought in terms of religion and psychology and business and…guh, it was amazing.
By the end of the first 10 pages, I was feeling more not-Jewish and more not-from-New York than I have ever felt in my whole life, and even though that feeling never went away, the book was never any less compelling because of it. In fact, I think that might have been the point of it. I have never in my life read a book that dealt so deftly with classism, racism, religious bigotry, fear mongering, sexism, capitalism and issues of cultural identity. I want to tell you about a thousand other things right now, but honestly I don’t have the heart to ruin it for you, because even the small moments, like Sacha not being able to eat doughnuts, are JUST BEYOND AWESOME.
(And I can’t even get started on the random insights into religion (and Brooklyn) which JUST FLOORED ME because they were so beautiful.)
At the book’s heart we have Sacha, a Jewish boy who can see witches, and Lily, an upper east side girl who wants to make something of herself beyond becoming a socialite like her mother. Both are complete fishes out of water, or rather they become them, and at the same time they don’t, and wow, is this difficult to explain without blowing it. And, of course, Inquisitor Wolf, for whom you are not prepared. Together, they fight crime! (Well, actually they try to find out who tried to murder Thomas Edison, and since Edison has invented a machine that will start the biggest witch hunt in American history, there is no shortage of suspects).
Never once did I wish this book was about a girl. Well, that’s not true; I think Lily has one heck of a story to tell, but it’s Lily’s story. Sacha’s story was just SO AMAZING. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that handled gender problems this well. It’s a challenge to explain in less than an essay, but you know how people complain that LotR is too white and the only real defence is that it’s a product of its time? Or how it’s difficult to set a book in the Civil War and then deal with slavery properly because history is such a mess? This book transcends that, bending everything back and back and back until I wasn’t even sure what I was reading anymore, only that it was amazing. AND WRITTEN FOR CHILDREN. (By which I mean “children are going to read this, and love it, because it is amazing, and then when they are grown-ups, they might have some sort of grace on account of having read this book.”)
And then there’s the alternate history! With J.P. Morgaunt (J.P. Morgan), Thomas Edison (rose coloured glasses not included, thank goodness), Harry Houdini and a remarkable cameo appearance by Teddy Roosevelt that just BLEW ME AWAY. This version of America, the hope for so many who arrived only to find the cultural melting pot even worse then they’d expected as their native magicks are outlawed, the ruthlessness of Morgaunt and the complete lack of respect from Edison, KNOCK ME OVER WITH A FEATHER, it’s awesome.
(This is the sort of book that makes me never want to go to New York in real life, because at this point it can’t possibly live up to my expectations.)
I want to know more. I want to know if the Mets have any fans at all. I want to know what is happening in Chicago. I want to know what is happening in LA. I want to know what is happening in Middle America. And, so help me, I want to know what’s going on in Canada. And I kind of want Nikola Tesla to show up a half-mad Serbian warlock, but that should not surprise you either.
I loved this book, you guys. It took a historical period with some VERY large blindspots, and hid nothing, working the injustice and the desperation, and the hope, into the plot so seamlessly that I spent large portions of the narrative hoping it would never end. And it’s written for 12-year-olds!
I have now told you approximately .001% of the things that make this book amazing. You can find out the rest for yourself. 🙂