Chris Moriarty has maintained the high quality storytelling that made The Inquisitor’s apprentice such a great book in her follow-up, The Watcher in the Shadows. The tension is ratcheted up in the sequel and a number of loose ends are left to dangle, ensuring that at least one more installment is to come.
Although a reader would be able to follow he plot of this book without having read The Inquisitor’s Apprentice, he or she won’t be as invested in the characters and their problems, so I highly recommend reading the books in order.
The books take place in an alternate New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Many things are the same – the tenements filled with groups of immigrants, the controlling robber barons, the harsh working conditions of the factories and the privileged lives of the rich. But in this New York magic is possible and a division of the police, the Inquisitors, is devoted to solving magical crimes.
Sacha Kessler is a thirteen year old boy from a Jewish family who works as an apprentice for Inquisitor Wolf, along with fellow apprentice Lily Astral. Author Chris Moriarty has stated that she wrote this book for her son, a fantasy fan, who couldn’t find a book in this genre with a hero that shared his Jewish heritage. I am not Jewish, but I am very glad that Moriarty chose to write these books. Fantasy is a genre that should, in my opinion, have more diversity and less repetition in it than any other. But sadly, it is as filled with clichés as romance or mystery novels.
In this series Moriarty not only spins a fresh, original fantasy but does it really, really well. The setting is rich, diverse and fascinating. The characters are well rounded people that we can truly care about. In Watcher in the Shadows Sacha was revealed as a person of strong morals as well as strong doubts. He wants to do the right thing but doesn’t always know what it is. His devotion to family, however is rock solid; never wavering in the worst of circumstances.
I highly recommend The Inquisitor’s Apprentice and The Watcher in the Shadows to everyone – adult or child, Jew or Gentile, fantasy reader or not. It is a well written story with a fabulous setting, great characters, daunting problems, solid values and a struggle for justice. Who can pass that up?