Happy MMGM, Reading Nook!
I'm reviewing Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret this week, a fun creative MG about a boy with a magical legacy, which came out in late April.
MMGM is a feature hosted by the fabulous Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 21st 2015 by HarperCollins (first published April 21st 2014)
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
Debut author D.D. Everest introduces us to Archie Greene on his twelfth brithday. Archie receives a book that introduces him to his legacy as a Flame Keeper, a group that is devoted to seeking out and protecting magical books in the Museum of Magical Miscellany. However, there's something that's harming the delicate balance of protection involving the books, and it's up to Archie to figure out what's going on...
While Archie Greene starts out predictably enough - a birthday leading to a magical legacy! Said legacy is in danger! - it's Everest's absolute attention to detail and writing, which makes this book a memorable one. From the first few chapters alone, it's clear that Everest has spent an extraordinary amount of time considering Archie's legacy and eventual destiny.
Readers are given an intriguing explanation on the origins of the Flame Keepers dating back to the court of Alexander the Great, and how several of history's key events have been impacted by those involved with the magical society.
(In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if younger readers start looking up things like the Great Library of Alexandria after reading this book.)
The fact that Archie is essentially the culimination of hundreds of years of that legacy, and can dually influence how the Flame Keepers proceed, immediately amps up the stakes, especially as Archie realizes that something or someone is harming the books, and he alone can figure out what it is, thanks to his newfound powers as a book whisperer.
And unlike his fantasy predecessors, Everest makes the smart decision to have Archie aided in his quest by his newfound family. Archie's cousins Bramble and Thistle make for both amusing side characters and standout characters in their own right, as they help guide Archie in learning his craft, and also help immerse him in the Flame Keeper world.
Though it's never explicitly stated, Everest does a nice job of using Archie's family to subtly explore the idea that not all acts of heroism are dependent on a person solely finding the strength and the courage to act against opposing forces. There's a certain unique strength from knowing that you come from a group of people who are all willing to have your back in the face of danger, and it's the exploration of that knowledge that helps drive the narrative forward.
Outside of Archie and the broader foundations for the origins of the Flame Keepers, readers will likely be impressed with the tiny details that Everest interweaves throughout the book. Everything from the potions that Flame Keepers need to take to enter their realm, to the book repairs that can help bring characters to life, actively engaged me, and made me want to find out more about the innerworkigns of Archie's world.
My minor quibble with Archie Greene, was that the ending of the book felt a little too rushed. To some extent, it felt like the editorial decision had been made that everything needed to be wrapped up by X page, and Everest had to compensate by tying everything quickly together. It had a bit of a whiplash effect, and I had to reread the last few chapters several times, just to make sure I had covered everything.
I would have loved for the book to be longer, simply so Everest could have had more opportunity to explore and expand on his world. So I'm hoping beyond hope, that Everest will have the opportunity to write a series and let Archie's world continue.
(ETA: Everest just confirmed on Twitter that he's working on book two now. Huzzah!)
Strongly recommend for fans of Dark Materials, and for younger readers of Percy Jackson.
About the author:
D. D. Everest is a successful journalist and author. He thought he knew how to write books until he started this one. It is his first book for children and nearly killed him, which serves him right. He lives in a rambling Victorian house on the Ashdown Forest, in England, with his partner, Sara, their son and daughter, and two cats.