Published: 22nd May 2013 by Text Publishing
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
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Two years have passed since Janie Scott last saw Benjamin Burrows, the mysterious apothecary’s son who stole her heart. She’s thrown herself into an ambitious chemistry project and, when it vanishes, she suspects the rich and powerful Magnusson of stealing it. And she knows she needs help to fight him.
On the other side of the world, Benjamin and the apothecary have been working in the war-torn jungles of Vietnam, using their elixirs to help the sick and wounded. But Benjamin has also been experimenting with a new formula that allows him to see into Janie’s world.
The friends are thrown into a whirlwind chase around the Pacific Ocean, trying to find each other and the truth behind what threatens them.
It’s been two years since Janie and Benjamin saved the worth with a team of alchemists, and Janie is now back in America, attending a boarding school while Benjamin and his apothecary father are in Vietnam helping those wounded in war. The Apprentices is another delightful read, full of adventure and intrigue, love and betrayal.
The Apprentices is written predominantly in Janie’s point-of-view, but also switches frequently to that of other characters. Herein lies my only real disappointment with the text: there are too many points of view! Although it’s great to see through Benjamin, Jin Lo and Pip’s eyes, it feels like there are too many voices in the story once you add in the other members of the apothecary gang.
Janie, Benjamin and Pip spend a large part of this novel separated, although the new powder that Benjamin has created allows the plot to overcome this obstacle quite cleverly. However, I think some of the magic is missing with the team being estranged. This became particularly problematic when the story was nearing its climax, when all the characters rather clumsily ended up on a small Malay island and saved the day. I feel like the narrative relies too much on coincidence and feels over-contrived, which detracted from my enjoyment.
However, Meloy proves yet again to a master of lyrical writing and vivid imagery – everything in this book is painted so well! I admire the clear and forthright way The Apprentices is written, and the author doesn’t have any trouble bringing the characters to life with their distinct voices. I found Pip’s adventures to be particularly amusing. I think Janie and Benjamin’s impatience for independence and the chance to prove themselves as more than ordinary kids is realised well in this book – it would be incredibly frustrating for them to have done and witnessed so many amazing things, and then be forced to act like normal teenagers.
Again, I have to note that I absolutely love the illustrations by Ian Schoenherr; they add a wonderful magical quality to the book.
The Apprentices is a great sequel to The Apothecary, and I loved the chance to be with my favourite characters again and see them go on another wild adventure. Whereas the first book could have happily stood alone, The Apprentices definitely needs a sequel, which I’ll be keeping an eye out for. A clever blend of spy-craft and magic, this series is sure to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.