The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
Janie and her parents have just fled California and headed to Cold War London. There she meets Benjamin, a boy who stands up for himself. As the two of them attempt to follow Soviet spies around London, they discover a real plot, a dangerous one. When Benjamin’s father disappears as they hide in the cellar below, Benjamin and Janie must try to use an ancient book of potions and spells to try to find him. But first they have to keep the book and themselves out of the hands of the enemies who are trying to find them. It’s not that easy when you don’t know who to trust or what to believe in anymore.
When I opened this book, it was like tumbling into a world that felt like home to me, but at the same time surprised and delighted me too. Meloy’s writing has a solid feel to it, hearkening back in tone to classic children’s books of adventure. At the same time, she has created a wondrous world to explore, one that she brings to life with strong characters, memorable settings, and a lot of magic.
The two protagonists are winning characters, filled with both whimsy and charm. They are characters that readers will relate to instantly. Their sudden friendship and mutual attraction is written in a way that makes sense. Both characters are brave, inventive, and creative. They are just whom one would want to take a grant adventure with.
The ARC I read of the book only had a few of the illustrations in it, but those that I have seen are beautiful. The design of the book plays with light and dark and so do the images, many of them capturing moments of action and importance in the story.
A dazzling fantasy novel, this book also has a strong sense of period and setting that can be missing in magical books. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Penguin Young Readers Group.
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