The year is 1896, New York City is rife with the corruption of Tammany Hall and the titans of industry. Magic is thrown into the mix in Chris Moriarty’s middle grade historical fantasy, The Inquisitor’s Apprentice where old New York is re imagined as a place where magic is outlawed. The Inquisitor’s are a special division of the NYPD and solve magical crimes as well as detect the use of magic.
Sacha Kessler, a nice Jewish boy, is discovered to have a high IQ, Inquisitorial Quotient, and is offered a position as apprentice to renowned Inquisitor Max Wolf. However, Sacha isn’t the only apprentice and to his chagrin discovers he must work alongside Lily Astral, who is the daughter of one of the wealthiest Wall Street Wizards. Investigating an assassination attempt on Thomas Edison takes the motely crew all over the city and eventually into Sacha’s own backyard on the Lower East Side.
The Inquisitor’s Apprentice has a fantastic premise. I loved the idea of a history where magic looms in the air of New York City, and the uses of the magic is as diverse as the city’s Burroughs. However, I would have liked the divisions of magic, i.e. the Chinatown magic, and the Bowery magic explained more thoroughly as well as why magic is outlawed.
Moriarty’s middle grade fantasy has a strong background in Jewish culture. Readers are treated to descriptions of the Sabbath, dybbuks, and Kabbalah as well as kosher food. It’s a great learning experience for Jews and goyim alike.
However, I felt that The Inquisitor’s Apprentice fell victim to uneven pacing. There are fast sections where the action is happening. The reader feels worry for Sacha and Lily but the pages keep turning because you just have to see what will happen. Yet that pace is not maintained. Instead, there are passages which are slow and comprised of information dumps about the magical gangs or are long introspective passages of Sacha worrying. I have to wonder if today’s middle grader is patient enough to wade through those passages.
As a historical fantasy loving patient adult, I loved The Inquisitor’s Apprentice by Chris Moriarty but I’m not entirely sure about the kid appeal.
Disclosure: Received for review as part of Amazon Vine.