The Inquisitor’s Apprentice by Chris Moriarty
Police and magic? Yes please.
The day Sacha found out he could see witches was the worst day of his life. . . .
Being an Inquisitor is no job for a nice Jewish boy. But when Sacha Kessler learns he can see witches, he’s yanked out of everyday life on Hester Street and apprenticed to the New York Police Department’s star Inquisitor, Maximillian Wolf.
The Inquisitor’s mission is to stop magical crime. And New York at the beginning of the twentieth century is a magical melting pot where each ethnic group has its own brand of homegrown witchcraft and magical gangs rule the streets from Hell’s Kitchen to Chinatown.
Soon Sacha has teamed up with fellow apprentice Lily Astral, daughter of one of the city’s richest Wall Street Wizards—and a spoiled snob, if you ask Sacha. Their first job is to find out who’s trying to kill Thomas Edison.
Despite being a fantasy book, it doesn’t solely revolve around magic but rather, in interactions between the police and characters. Through different characters, you get a glimpse of the kind of world Sacha lives in which isn’t that different to our own. Sensitive topics such as prejudice, capitalism, and injustice are pretty vital in the story that it also appears as more of a social commentary than a fantasy book. What makes these gloomy topics lighter is Sacha’s family, one of the many people who suffer under these inequalities. Sacha’s family isn’t ignorant of their troubles and so they make fun of them that gives the book a comical point of view in contrast of Sacha and Wolf’s cynical perspective of the cities of New York.
Plenty of times I got annoyed by Sacha’s cowardice but it’s probably why I ended up liking him the most (I like many of them, though). His character was well-fleshed throughout the book. I especially love Lily because of this. She’s practically Sacha’s voice, in a less rash tune, and they’re quite a good combination. Sacha has the knowledge so unlikely for his age that’s both sad and inspiring while Lily has the voice and the guts, and the innocence of a child that people like Wolf desire to protect. Mentioning Wolf, he is one cool, dorky character and I can’t wait for more of him.
The setting is full of imagination and history wherein people are divided according to their ethnicity, class, and magic in New York, the buildings, subways, the colorful and fun Coney Island, and the bustling Chinatown. Machines and technology are taking over magic, Thomas Edison challenges Houdini’s alleged magical tricks, the rich capitalizing the poor—the premise is wonderfully set that despite the subtle appearance of magic (no fireworks, explosions, or anything majestic and awe striking), it still takes you to a different realm while still keeping in touch to reality (and the illustrations were lovely). Part historical fiction as well, real events are heavily related to the course of the story which I am unfortunately not familiar at. The website provides bits of history though so it’s recommended to check it out so as you could enjoy the book even more, though it’s already satisfactory to me.
Since there are more books to come; I’m looking forward to Sacha’s development into a young man who is ready to face harsh reality straight on regardless of its constraints and judgment. And more Lily, an intense character who still has much to learn about her surroundings. And of course, Maximillian Wolf, a mystifying character whose true colors remain vague but, so far, he’s certainly a person to aspire to. Reminds me a bit of To Kill a Mockingbird (the greatest book ever, by the way) except with magic. I had lots of fun reading it.