Published: 1st July 2012
Publisher: Andersen Press UK
Genre: Children’s Adventure & Fantasy
This book is counting towards my 2015 Reading Challenge.
Synopsis taken from Amazon:
A dose of magic could save the world . . .
Fourteen-year-old Janie Scott is new to London and she’s finding it dull, dreary and cold – until she meets Benjamin Burrows who dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father, the mysterious apothecary, is kidnapped he entrusts Janie and Benjamin with his sacred book, full of ancient spells and magical potions. Now the two new friends must uncover the book’s secrets in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies – Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons.
I discovered this book after watching a YouTube video by Mercedes at MercysBookishMusings (my favourite booktuber!). I was really intrigued and managed to find it in the library.
I absolutely loved the illustrations in this book. Throughout the entire novel there are gorgeous little sketches, that really add to the atmosphere.
The plot was action packed and fast paced. It was a real page turner that had me guessing the entire time. I loved the incorporation of potions and magic. Two of the potions enabled the characters to fly and become invisible. I loved this element – an old apothecary creating magic potions and passing down his skills to his son (with obvious mishaps and adventures along the way!).
The story is ultimately about friendship and learning right from wrong. There were points in the novel where I thought young children might struggle with a concept or idea, or struggle to understand some of the terminology. This was immediately remedied by the author, describing the idea in a paragraph or few sentences afterwards. This was done in a non-patronising way, Maile Meloy has definitely written for her target audience.
Some of the chapters are slightly violent. There is death, kidnapping, characters held at gunpoint. These scenes are not described in too much gory detail though, remaining suitable for the target audience.
There is also a historical element to the novel. Set in the early stages of the cold war, dealing with atomic bombs, radiation, Russia and Soviet spies. Educational value is well disguised within the novel – giving readers an insight into war, the british school system at this time and the importance of family.
A great, fun read that satisfied my need for magic and fantasy. I would definitely like to read the second book, The Apprentices.