Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, the focus is on Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret by D.D.Everest.
Archie Green receives a mysterious present on his birthday. Deep within an ancient wooden box he finds an old book, written in a language he doesn’t recognize. With the book comes a Special Instruction – Archie must travel to Oxford to return the book to the Museum of Magical Miscellany.
Soon Archie will meet family that he never knew he had, and discover the world of the Flame Keepers – a community devoted to finding and preserving magical books.
But the magical book under Archie’s protection is dangerous, and dark spirits hunt it out. With the help of his cousins, Archie must do everything he can to uncover the book’s hidden powers and save the Flame Keepers from evil.
Welcome to a wonderful, magical world where bookshelves are enchanted, librarians are sorcerers and spells come to life.
The synopsis for this book was winning me over rapidly and then I hit that last line. Enchanted bookshelves? Sorcerer librarians? This was a book I knew I had to read!
The opening chapters work really well to draw the reader in. The very first one makes only a little sense, but in that way that makes you want to keep reading so you can find out what on earth is going on. The focus then shifts to Archie, the main character, and the action really begins. Within a short space of time there’s a bit of humour, plenty of intrigue, and a mini catastrophe – I was hooked and I think anyone trying to read this at bedtime to a young audience will be met with cries of “one more” at the end of each chapter!
Archie Greene’s world is a fascinating one. Like all magical worlds there are some things that feel a little familiar, but there’s also so very much that feels fresh and new. The world building itself feels pretty effortless, the information is threaded throughout the book – definitely an advantage of having a main character who is new to the world. One of the things that I really loved was how rooted this book is in the history of world. The Great Library of Alexandria features heavily, and historical figures such as John Dee get referenced thoroughly.
Archie himself is a character I liked a lot. He makes some slightly questionable choices throughout the book, but these are always for good reasons – he genuinely believes he’s making the best decisions. There’s no doubting that he’s a brave character, there are some really nice discussions on what being brave and courageous actually means. That said, he is only as good a character as he is as a result of the characters around him. His two cousins in particular, Bramble and Thistle, are a vital component of the book and whilst Archie’s grandmother gets very little on page time her presence is felt throughout the book.
This is an adventure story at heart, and this element is well executed. The pacing of the book is good, it keeps the reader’s attention and many of the chapters end in such a way that you want to just see what happens next. I liked the way the book was believable despite being set in a magical version of our lives. Everything makes sense within the context of the book’s world, and the history that it draws upon.
It would be very easy to be immediately a little dismissive of this book. An adventure story, set in the world of magic and enchantment, featuring a young lad who becomes welcomed into the world he didn’t know existed on his birthday. So far so familiar, right? Well yes, but to approach this book in this manner would mean missing out on a really good story set in a world I personally want to visit right now. I think I’d be an excellent addition to the team at the Museum of Magical Miscellany… now where do I find the application form?
Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret is published by Faber Children’s in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.