Archie Greene and the alchemist's curse by D. D. Everest
Allen & Unwin Australia (Faber), 2016. ISBN 9780571307418
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Move over Harry, you have a rival for my affections! Somehow or other I missed the first book in this fabulous series (that will need to be redressed ASAP) but no matter, I was able to pick up the threads from the first well enough to thoroughly enjoy this volume.
And how could I possibly resist any magical story in which books and librarians feature so strongly? Well, that just wouldn't happen at all!
Archie Greene found out he was from a magical family on his 12th birthday and since then he has been living with his aunt and uncle plus cousins in Oxford so that he can pursue his inherent apprenticeship working with magical books. Not only does he have a natural talent for the work which he is undertaking to learn but he has a rare gift. He is a book whisperer. He can hear and speak to books who often reveal secrets that others can have no hope of discovering.
When Archie's younger cousin also embarks on his apprenticeship and steps up to receive his 'fire mark' from the mysterious Flame of Pharos which will denote his apprenticeship path, he and Archie as well as Bramble the older cousin surprisingly receive another mark. Two other apprentices also are branded in the same way. The five now carry the Golden Circle - the mark that has not been seen for 350 years and means that the children are the new 'crop' of original magic writers. The whys and wherefores are the thread of the story and the plot untangles like a strange spell itself revealing hidden histories and uncovering truths.
D. D. Everest has provided readers with an alternate world which in every sense not only echoes the satisfaction we all had with HP books but at times eclipses this with highly original plot twists and characters.
I will be promoting this with vigour in my library just as soon as I can get hold of the first in the series. I predict that we may well need multiples as word spreads of the delights of this series.
Amazingly these are the author's first forays into writing for children - check out the author's website. Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards. Make sure you stock up!