Jinx, the Wizard's Apprentice by Sage Blackwood

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Jinx, the Wizard's Apprentice by Sage Blackwood

Buy Jinx, the Wizard's Apprentice by Sage Blackwood at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Going to work for the rather scary wizard Simon Magus seems a better bet to young Jinx than staying at home—which just goes to show how horrid stepparents can be. But is Simon kindly and generous, or cruel and wicked?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 9781782064046

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Everybody knows you don't stray off the path when you're deep in the woods. And everybody knows, too, that stepparents usually want you out of the way — permanently. So poor Jinx has no difficulty in understanding, even at the tender age of six, that things are not going well for him. Rescued by a wizard, he spends much of the next few years quietly helping out round the house. It's not a bad life: Simon Magus is gruff to the point of rudeness, but the house is warm and the food is tasty and plentiful.

Simon won't let Jinx learn any magic to begin with, but despite his cleverness he doesn't even notice that the boy already has powers of his own. Jinx understands what the trees say (a pretty useful skill in a forest, don't you think?), and he sees a coloured cloud above people's heads which helps him read their emotions. Until the day, that is, when Simon performs a ritual which accidentally removes Jinx's ability to see these auras.

There are lots of traditional fantasy elements here: trolls, wizards, witches, bewitched companions and, of course, the forest itself. But they are woven together in a fresh new way so that the reader is kept guessing right to the end about who is evil and who is good, and what will eventually happen to them. In fact, one of the heroes actually dies during the story, and while the immediate crisis is most satisfactorily resolved, there are enough threads of plot left over to amply fill another book or two.

Two things make this book a very successful example of its genre. The first is that it simply does not take itself too seriously. Danger and fear and excitement abound, of course, but there is also a great deal of humour, from the butter-churn-riding witch who delights in telling Jinx stories about evil wizards to scare him, to the poor lad's clumsy attempts to understand human emotions once his 'clouds' have been stolen away. The second is that the characters in the book are intriguing not only because they live through wild and wonderful adventures, but also because each one of them has a rich and complex personality of their own. Simon the wizard is married, for a start, and rarely meets up with his scholarly wife (who lives in another realm) without immediately getting into a squabble with her. And although the wizard works hard at his spells and is ambitious, he often doubts his own abilities. Jinx is endlessly curious and engaging, but he can be impetuous, and he's not always too bright. Plus, how many heroes do you know who suffer from vertigo?

There are lots of good things to enjoy in this book. Magic and adventure are in plentiful supply, along with thoroughly nasty creatures which regularly try to turn the heroes into lunch. It's dramatic, scary and funny (sometimes all at the same time) and readers will find they easily identify with Jinx and his companions. And best of all, it's the start of a series, so you can be sure of more thrills and laughs in the future.

Another author who combines magic and fun with excellent world-building is Frances Hardinge. Try Fly by Night and Twilight Robbery for a heroine with a wonderfully unusual pet.

Buy Jinx, the Wizard's Apprentice by Sage Blackwood at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jinx, the Wizard's Apprentice by Sage Blackwood at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Jinx, the Wizard's Apprentice by Sage Blackwood at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jinx, the Wizard's Apprentice by Sage Blackwood at Amazon.com.

Booklists.jpg Jinx, the Wizard's Apprentice by Sage Blackwood is in the Top Ten Books for Confident Readers 2013.


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