First, if you have not read The Inquisitor’s Apprentice by Chris Moriarty quite yet, remedy that issue. After all, it is a book that’s received praise from both Cory Doctorow and Garth Nix which is kind of a big deal. Moriarty’s The Watcher In The Shadows continues with it’s predecessor’s momentum and is just as superb as the first book. If you aren’t familiar with either book, I’ll lay it out for you: these books have a character reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, but it’s set in the early 1900s during the titans of industry era of history in New York City. The different boroughs are rife with magic. Main character Sacha Kessler, a young Jewish boy, is apprenticing with the magical police called Inquisitors and these books are basically about him unraveling various mysterious with best friend Lily Astral and a mentor called Wolf.
In this sequel, The Watcher In The Shadows, the prologue is eerie. Sacha’s mother is coming home from work when she is detained by a mysterious entity and coerced into keeping a secret and doing extra work. This is very, very important to the story. Anyways, we’re off to a rip roaring start when it is discovered that the Klezmer King, Naftali Asher has been murdered. A young union member is suspected. Meanwhile, conditions at the shirtwaist factory where Sacha’s sister Bekah works are very bad and rumor has it, a strike is about to go down. Suspecting the events are connected, Sacha and the Inquistors, namely Wolf and Lily are on the case.
I think that in Moriarty’s follow up to The Inquistor’s Apprentice, Sacha Kessler comes across as more angsty. This is not at all a bad thing and it actually really makes sense for his character. You see, he is at odds with himself. On the one hand, he has this wellspring of magical power. On the other hand, his religion discourages the use of magic to harm even a hair on another human’s head. So, he doesn’t really know what to do. Further, he’s embarassed about being poor and feels as though he has to keep that fact from Lily. However, when Sacha isn’t angsty, he’s clever in a non-arrogant way. His character continues to win me over.
The world within The Watcher In The Shadows is very intricate and well done. Just as 1900s New York City was a melting pot of nationalities and culture, so is the magic contained within this book. The Jews use the powers from Kabbala. Even the Irish have their own form of magic. It’s interesting to see how much it varies. I loved how Moriarty weaved in themes of privilege and power, both on a superficial, status sort of level but also on a magical level. And it’s done in a way that won’t go over the heads of perceptive twelve year olds. I think the whole world and setting that Moriarty builds is incredibly unique and richly created.
If you’re looking for a fast, whip through it sort of read, The Watcher In The Shadows may not be your ticket as it kind of does meander. As I am a more patient reader, I actually really liked it. I think that introspective sorts of readers will really enjoy this one as it has depth without a lot of flash. Also, the drawings of Mark Edward Geyer are not to be missed, they add a special flavor to the book and really set the tone and mood. Seriously my friends, give this series a chance it is unique and so different from what’s out there.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by Amazon Vine.
Other reviews of The Watcher In The Shadows by Chris Moriarty:
Charlotte’s Library – “Fantastic world building”
Cuppacozy – “a fresh, original fantasy”
Random Musings Of A Bibliophile – “It is a brilliant balance Moriarty has established”
Books by Chris Moriarty:
The Inquisitor’s Apprentice