The Inquisitor's Apprentice [NOOK Book]


The day Sacha found out he could see witches was the worst day of his life . . .

Being an Inquisitor is no job for a nice Jewish boy. But when the police learn that Sacha Kessler can see witches, he’s apprenticed to the department’s star Inquisitor, Maximillian Wolf. Their mission is to stop magical crime. And New York at the beginning of the twentieth century is a magical melting pot where each ethnic group has its own brand of homegrown ...

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The Inquisitor's Apprentice

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The day Sacha found out he could see witches was the worst day of his life . . .

Being an Inquisitor is no job for a nice Jewish boy. But when the police learn that Sacha Kessler can see witches, he’s apprenticed to the department’s star Inquisitor, Maximillian Wolf. Their mission is to stop magical crime. And New York at the beginning of the twentieth century is a magical melting pot where each ethnic group has its own brand of homegrown witchcraft, and magical gangs rule the streets from Hell’s Kitchen to Chinatown.

Soon Sacha has teamed up with fellow apprentice Lily Astral, daughter of one of the city’s richest Wall Street Wizards—and a spoiled snob, if you ask Sacha. Their first case is to find out who’s trying to kill Thomas Edison.

Edison has invented a mechanical witch detector that could unleash the worst witch-hunt in American history. Every magician in town has a motive to kill him. But as the investigation unfolds, all the clues lead back to the Lower East Side. And Sacha soon realizes that his own family could be accused of murder!

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—This novel is based on an interesting premise, but its realization falls short of its potential. Sacha Kessler lives in an alternate history in which people are capable of magic, which is illegal, and policed by Inquisitors, whose mission is to stop it. He can see magic is being worked, earning him the position of assistant apprentice to the foremost Inquisitor in New York City, an unlikely position for a Jew. Shortly after he begins his prestigious class-defying job, he discovers a dybbuk, a creature from Jewish folklore, has been set loose and he must stop it from killing Thomas Edison. The Inquisitor's Apprentice has the innocent appeal of a "Hardy Boys" novel set in 19th-century New York (with magic). The simple black-and-white illustrations support the time frame. While the content and art will appeal to younger readers, the quality of writing, details, jokes, and class commentary targets the book at an older crowd. Unfortunately, instead of satiating both, it satisfies neither. A number of Yiddish words are difficult to understand in context, further deterring many readers. The plot moves slowly, but will keep kids hooked in the beginning. As the story progresses, however, it becomes more convoluted, culminating in a confusing and hurried ending. Several class issues are raised throughout the book and often associated with ethnicity. While this is appropriate for the time, it will leave many readers with an uncomfortable feeling.—Devin Burritt, Jackson Memorial Library, Tenants Harbor, ME
Elizabeth Bird
Moriarty…not only makes religion central to the story, but mixes it with magic. Generally speaking, children's book authors have three ways of treating religion in a fantasy novel. They can do without it entirely, they can include religion but not base it on real beliefs or, rarest of all, they can use real religions alongside fictional magic…Opting for the last, Moriarty successfully mixes Judaism with spells, throwing in allusions to race relations for spice. She also sucks you into the life of the city, making it viscerally real.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Adult SF writer Moriarty (Spin State) makes her children’s book debut with a fabulously imaginative historical fantasy. Set in an early 20th-century New York City where every ethnic group has its own magic—Jewish bakers sell “mother-in-latkes,” guaranteed to provide the perfect son-in-law—the story concerns 13-year-old Sacha Kessler, who discovers an ability to see magic and gets apprenticed to Maximillian Wolf, an Inquisitor specializing in solving magical crimes. Sacha is pleased to have a job, but his grandfather is an illegal Kabbalist and his Uncle Mordechai is a Trotskyite Anarcho-Wiccanist, so he has his secrets, too. Wolf, Sacha, and snooty Lily Astral (a fellow apprentice) are on the case when someone attempts to murder Thomas Edison using a dybbuk. Other figures, historical and not quite, become involved, including Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, and the wizard of Wall Street—James Pierpont Morgaunt. Moriarty’s novel is chock-full of period detail (both in the author’s confident prose and Geyer’s occasional pen-and-ink illustrations), feisty character dynamics, and a solid sense of humor. It’s a fascinating example of alternate history that leaves the door open for future mysteries. Ages 9–12. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Moriarty’s novel is chock-full of period detail (both in the author’s confident prose and Geyer’s occasional pen-and-ink illustrations), feisty character dynamics, and a solid sense of humor. It’s a fascinating example of alternate history that leaves the door open for future mysteries."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A marvelous, mystical romp that doesn’t ignore reality. A hint of a possible sequel whets readers’ appetite for more: Yes, please!"—Kirkus, starred review

"Moriarty's thoroughly imagined alternate history has a killer premise...The mystery unfolds at a heady clip." -Booklist

"Spoiler Alert: It’s awesome." —Fuse #8 Blog on School Library Journal

"A wonderfully inventive and fascinating story of the clash of ancient magic and early-twentieth century technology. A compelling book that I read in a single sitting and highly recommend."—Garth Nix, New York Times bestselling author of Sabriel and the Seventh Tower series

"Fantastic . . . a great magic trick."—Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother

"You’ll fall right into The Inquisitor’s Apprentice by Chris Moriarty."— Robin Hobb, international best-selling author of the Rain Wilds Chronicles

"Cory Doctorow told me I would love this, and he was so right!"—Ellen Kushner

Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
It is possible for a book to try too hard to be unique. In this "alternate history," author Chris Moriarty errs far in that direction. Sacha Kessler, a Jewish teen from the Lower East Side of New York, is taken on as an apprentice by the New York Police Department. The division he works for is charged with controlling illegal magic. Apparently, the varied ethnic enclaves of New York are riddled with illicit magic. Lilly Astral, the privileged daughter of a wealthy family with veiled connections to Salem's famed witchcraft trials, is also starting an apprenticeship. The two young people are mentored by Maximillian Wolfe, a kind of Clark Kent mage—with his glasses on, he appears ordinary—who is trying to stop the anti-Semitic inventor, Thomas Edison, from stealing peoples' souls with his latest invention, the etherograph. This is just about as confusing as it sounds, especially when additional historical figures such as Houdini and Little Egypt are thrown into the mix. The "alternate" part of this fantasy is a sort of parallel universe of New York, much as Diagon Alley parallels London in the Harry Potter series. There, the comparison ends. Readers without at least a passing knowledge of the history of robber barons will miss puns (e.g., the dastardly industrialist Morgaunt for J.P. Morgan, Pentacle Industries for the Triangle Shirtwaist factory). Moreover, kaballah, an arcane Jewish mysticism practiced only by extremely religious Jewish men over the age of forty, is tossed around as if Madonna and Demi Moore had a hand in writing the book. The text is flavored with throwaway Yiddish phrases, but no glossary is provided and no contextual references support their usage. The words will be lost on current readers, most of whom probably only know Yiddish that has become part of the English lexicon. What's more, the use of pejorative terms for gentiles is as offensive as the use of the "n" word would be in a book featuring African American characters. Magic may be everywhere in Moriarty's New York, but this book is pedestrian and not worth purchasing. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
VOYA - Suanne B. Roush
Just past his thirteenth birthday, Sacha Kessler has his life turned around when he realizes he can see magic. This brings him to the attention of the Inquisitorial Squad, a division of the NYPD charged with protecting citizens against magic. In this end of the 19th-century New York City, the Wizards of Wall Street are truly wizards who want to control, not only the money, but the magic as well. After taking the Inquisitorial Quotient (IQ) test, Sacha is apprenticed to the city's best Inquisitor, Maximillian Wolf. Also starting apprenticeship the same day as Sacha is Lilly Astral, the daughter of one of the city's richest men. The action in this title involves the multicultural aspects of the city, the rich and poor, and the various religious beliefs, especially Sacha's Jewish heritage and the Kabbalahistic tales of the dybbuk and its ability to take over a person's body and soul. The first in a series, The Inquisitor's Apprentice presents an alternative, historical New York, with historical figures such as Thomas Edison, Harry Houdini, and Teddy Roosevelt close to their true histories, and the "robber barons" transformed into wizards named Morgaunt and Astral. Although the action is consistent, the book will appeal more to strong readers due to the length. Many readers will have difficulty with the Yiddish terms and the Jewish religious culture that is at the center of the story, so it is doubtful the book will find wide readership unless the population has the necessary background to appreciate the subtleties of the novel. Reviewer: Suanne B. Roush
Kirkus Reviews

Thirteen-year-old Sacha lives in New York City's Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century. Or does he?

The sights and sounds and smells, social ills and rampant racism and anti-Semitism all seem to be as they really were. But hexers are all around, and the regulars at the Metropole Café are learned witches and wizards from the top European universities. Astral Place is named for an important family, and J.P. Morgaunt rules just about everything. Sacha can see magic even when it's hidden, so he is drafted into the Inquisitors, the arm of the police dedicated to eradicating magic, at least among the poor. What follows are wild adventures involving spells and dybbuks and deathly struggles between good and evil. Moriarty beckons readers into this alternate universe and makes even the most bizarre elements totally believable. Sacha, Lily and Inspector Wolf are all fully developed and multilayered characters, as are the many other distinctive personalities that appear in the tale. The author employs rich language and syntax that please the ear and touch the senses, making it all come alive, especially the very real magic of New York City itself.

A marvelous, mystical romp that doesn't ignore reality. A hint of a possible sequel whets readers' appetite for more: Yes, please! (author's note) (Fantasy. 12 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547677798
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 503,400
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Chris Moriarty grew up in New York surrounded by a loud and zany family much like Sacha Kessler’s. Chris has published several science fiction novels, including Spin Control, which won the Philip K. Dick Award. She wrote The Inquisitor’s Apprentice for her children so that they would be able to read a fantasy that celebrates their New York Jewish heritage. Chris lives in upstate New York.

Mark Edward Geyer is best known as the illustrator of two Stephen King novels: Rose Madder and The Green Mile. Mark has worked in a variety of illustration genres, including corporate advertising, editorial, and architectural. He comes from a long line of artists. Visit his website at

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Read an Excerpt


The Boy Who Could See Witches

THE DAY SACHA found out he could see witches was the worst day of his life.

It started out as a perfectly ordinary Friday afternoon—if you could ever call Friday afternoons on Hester Street ordinary.

People said there were more human beings per square mile on New York’s Lower East Side than in the Black Hole of Calcutta, and Sacha thought it must be true. The roar of all those people was like the surf of a mighty ocean. You could hear them working and eating, talking and praying, running the sewing machines that clattered away from dawn to dusk in the windows of every tenement building. You could feel their dreams crackling along the cobblestones like the electricity in the big transformers down at Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street power station. And you could feel the shivery static charge of their magic—both the legal and the illegal kind.

Not that anyone was worried about illegal magic at half past four on a Friday afternoon. Fridays on Hester Street were only about one thing: shopping.

Pushcarts packed every inch of pavement from the East River Docks to the Bowery. Mobs of housewives jostled and hollered, desperate to get their Shabbes shopping done before sunset. Salesmen cut through the crowd like sharks, hunting for customers to cajole, bully, or physically drag into their basement storefronts. Pack peddlers and day-old-bread sellers battled for space in the gutter, each one bellowing at the top of his lungs that his wares were cheaper, better tasting, and better for you than anyone else’s.

Every piece of food had to be sold now, before the whole Lower East Side shut down for Shabbes. After that the city closed all the stores on Sunday to make sure the goyim stayed sober for church. And after that . . . well, if you had anything left to sell on Monday, you might as well just throw it out. Because no Jewish housewife was ever in a million years going to feed her family three-day-old anything.

Most Fridays, Sacha’s mother got off work at the Pentacle Shirtwaist Factory just in time to race home, grab the week’s savings out of the pickle jar behind the stove, and dash back outside half an hour before sunset.

That was when the real craziness began.

You’d think a woman with only half an hour to do three days’ worth of grocery shopping wouldn’t have time to haggle. But if you thought that, you didn’t know Ruthie Kessler. Sacha’s mother went shopping like a general goes to war. Her weapons were a battered shopping basket, a blistering tongue, and a fistful of pennies. And her children were her foot soldiers.

Sacha and his older sister, Bekah, would sprint up and down Hester Street, ducking around knees and elbows and dodging within a hair’s breadth of oncoming traffic. They’d visit every shop, every pushcart, every pack peddler. They’d race back to their mother to report on the state of the enemy’s battle lines. And then Mrs. Kessler would issue her orders and dole out her pennies:

"Three cents for an onion? That’s meshuga! Tell Mr. Kaufmann no one else is charging more than two!"

"What do you mean you’re not sure how fresh Mrs. Lieberman’s tomatoes are? Are you my son, or aren’t you? Go back and squeeze them!"

"All right, all right! Tell Mr. Rabinowitz you’ll take the herring. But if he chops the head off like he did last week, I’m sending it back. I never buy a fish until I see the whites of its eyes!"

This Friday the shopping seemed like it would never end. But at last the sun sank over the Bowery. The shouting faded, and the crowds began to break up and drift away. Mrs. Kessler looked upon her purchases and found them good—or at least as good as a hardworking Jewish mother was willing to admit that anything in this wicked world could be.

"I’ve got a few pennies left," she told her children as they hefted their overflowing baskets and began to stagger home. "Let’s stop off at Mrs. Lassky’s bakery for some rugelach."

"No thanks," Bekah said. "I’m not hungry. And anyway I have homework."

Mrs. Kessler watched her daughter go with narrowed eyes, fingering the little silver locket she always wore around her neck. "So secretive," she murmured. "You’d almost think . . . well, never mind. It’s a mystery what girls want these days."

It might be a mystery what Bekah wanted, but there was no mistaking what the girls lining up outside Mrs. Lassky’s bakery were after. The big English sign over the door said lassky & daughters kosher baked goods. But the English sign was only there to fool the cops. And since there was no such thing as a Jewish Inquisitor in the New York Police Department, the handwritten Yiddish signs taped to the shop window made no bones about what was really for sale inside:













Sacha had never quite understood why magic was illegal in America. He just knew that it was. And that his mother and practically every other housewife on Hester Street cheerfully ignored the law whenever disapproving husbands and fathers—not to mention the NYPD Inquisitors—were safely elsewhere.

Luckily, though, Sacha didn’t have to worry about that. He’d made it all the way through his bar mitzvah without showing an ounce of magical talent—and he couldn’t have been happier about it.

Inside Mrs. Lassky’s tiny shop, the air was thick with magic. Customers packed every nook and cranny like pickled herring. Half of them were shouting out orders, the other half were trying to pay, and they were all yammering away at each other like gossip was about to be outlawed tomorrow. Behind the counter, the Lassky twins scurried back and forth under drifting clouds of pastry flour. Mrs. Lassky sat at the ornate cash register accepting cash, compliments—and, yes, even the occasional complaint.

"Do you see anything on that sign about a perfect husband?" she was saying as Sacha and his mother finally reached the front of the line. "A perfect son-in-law I can deliver. But a perfect husband? There is no such thing!"

The other women waiting in line at the counter began chiming in one after another.

"She’s right, bubeleh! Show me a woman with a perfect husband, and I’ll show you a widow!"

"Perfect, shmerfect! Take it from me, sweetie. If it’s after ten in the morning and he’s not drunk, he’s perfect!"

When Mrs. Lassky caught sight of Sacha, she leaned over the counter and pinched him on both cheeks. "So handsome you’re getting, just like your Uncle Mordechai! But skinny! We need to fatten you up a little. How about a nice hot Make-Her-Challah-for-You? Not that you need any luck with the ladies." She pinched his cheeks again for good measure. "Sooo adorable!"

"No thanks," Sacha said, blushing furiously and wiping flour off his face. "Just a rugelach. And plain’s fine."

"Well, if you change your mind, remember I’ve got two lovely daughters."

"Speaking of daughters," Sacha’s mother said ominously, "I’ll have a Mother-in-Latke."

"Oh, Ruthie, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Your Bekah’s the prettiest girl on Hester Street."

"Kayn aynhoreh!" Mrs. Kessler muttered, making the sign to ward off the evil eye. "And anyway she’s as stubborn as a mule. You should hear the wild ideas she’s picking up at night school." Mrs. Kessler made it sound as if you could catch ideas like you caught head lice. "Do you know what she told me the other day? That marriage is just a bourgeois convention. I could’ve schreied!"

"Well," Mrs. Lasky said, "I don’t know anything about bourgeois convection. But I do know about son-in-laws. Come here, girls! And bring the latkes so I can make one up special for Mrs. Kessler!"

Sacha’s mother squinted at the tray of steaming hot latkes. "Hmm. I could do with a little less handsome. Handsome is as handsome does—and it doesn’t do much after the wedding night. And while you’re at it, why don’t you add a dash of frugality and another shake or two of work ethic?"

"Your mother," Mrs. Lassky told Sacha, "is a wise woman."

And then she did it.

Whatever it was.

Something flimmered over her head, like the hazy halo that blossomed around street lamps on foggy nights. Sacha guessed it must be what people called an aura. Except that the word aura sounded all mysterious and scientific. And the flimmery light around Mrs. Lassky and her latkes just looked grandmotherly and frazzled, and a little silly and, well . . . a lot like Mrs. Lassky herself.

"What did you just do?" he asked her.

"Nothing, sweetie. Don’t worry your curly head about it."

"But you did something. Something magi—ow!"

Sacha’s mother had just kicked him hard in the shin.

"Why’d you kick me?" he yelped, hopping up and down on one foot.

"Don’t fib," his mother snapped. "Nobody likes a liar!"

Later Sacha would wonder how he could have been so stupid. But at the time, he was too outraged to hear the bell tinkling over the bakery’s front door. Or to see Mrs. Lassky’s mouth falling open in horror. Or to notice the crowd behind him parting like the Red Sea for Moses.

"I am not a liar!" he insisted. "I saw it!"

But just as he was about to say what he’d seen, a heavy hand clapped him on the shoulder and spun him around—and he was face-to-face with a New York Police Department Inquisitor in full uniform.

Sacha’s head was about level with the man’s belt buckle, so it took what seemed like an eternity for his eyes to travel up the vast expanse of navy blue uniform to the silver badge with the dread word inquisitor stamped boldly across it. Above the badge the man’s eyes were the crisp blue of a cloudless sky.

"Well now, boyo," the Inquisitor said, taking out his black leather ticket book and checking off the box for magic, illegal use of. "Why don’t you tell me just exactly what you saw. And make sure you get it right, ’cause you’re going to have to repeat it all to the judge come Monday morning."

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012

    I was given an Advance Copy. As an educator who is always lookin

    I was given an Advance Copy. As an educator who is always looking for new YA lit, I read it.

    I give Moriarty two stars for character development and accurate historical references to 1900 New York and tenement living. The story moved at a fine pace and was somewhat engaging. The remaining 3 stars?

    1. The story ended abruptly - too abruptly for my liking. While I do believe that the genre of YA lit always needs to grow, this book does NOT have a universal quality that I could give to any reader.

    2. While the tribute to Moriarty's son and culture is heartwarming, without the realization of deeper name play and an accurate knowledge of history, this book will be lost on many, if not most readers. I shudder to think that the average kid will get a few pages in and drop it because of the cultural references and bigger words, moreover that some children will construct the name play as reality.

    I do believe there is a shortage of Jewish literature in America for children (not just Jewish children), however this novel does nothing to fill that need. I do realize that sci fi can be a form of speculative fiction (which this novel clearly is), but I sincerely believe the author needs to quit trying so hard. Not everyone is J.K. Rowling.

    3. What I truly found offensive though, was the inaccurate portrayal of Yiddish lore throughout the book. While kitchy and cute (knishes that will bring boys), etc., as a Jew, I feel Moriarty did more damage to her culture and her faith than anything. Any book that feeds negative cultural stereotypes is off my list and that of classroom recommendations.

    Will I read the other books as they come out? Of course, for it is my job to be a well-informed educator. I can only hope they improve in tone and social acceptance.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2014

    A wonderful re-imaging of NYC in the 1920's. While it is a ficti

    A wonderful re-imaging of NYC in the 1920's. While it is a fictitious world it highlights some of the realities of the time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2012

    Totaly awsome!

    I didnt buy this book i borrowed it from the library. Being jewish,there are a few things i can spot wrong but other wise its good enouf for me to find it on the nook colour to write a comment. I recommend this for evry one but super religus jews(they probably wouldent even pick it up whith out my comment).

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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