Gr 7-9-In 1264, 15-year-old Jean is sent from his Toulouse abbey to England's Oxford University. His assignment: to spy on Roger Bacon, a gifted scientist and possible heretic. When Bacon is imprisoned by the Inquisition, Jean, believing firmly in the man's innocence, masterminds a rescue mission. All ends happily. This novel fails on several levels. Character development is minimal. Jean's sudden change from naive student to forceful hero is not only unrealistic but also, with man-of-the-world Pierre de Maricourt on the scene, illogical. The Rosens' depiction of medieval life is superficial, limited to a few descriptive passages and some unfamiliar vocabulary. Everyone talks and acts as if they were lifted from the 20th century. Change a few details, in fact, and this could easily be a contemporary spy story pitting leftist and rightist groups against one another. Despite notes explaining what is invented and what is true, The Magician's Apprentice is laden with historical errors. This is historical fantasy, not historical fiction, and pretty poor fantasy at that.-Ann W. Moore, Schenectady County Public Library, NY
A French abbey and an English university in the thirteenth century provide unusual settings for this historical novel. An orphan educated at a Franciscan abbey in Toulouse, 15-year-old Jean is accused of having a heretical document in his possession. The Grand Inquisitor drops the charge on the condition that Jean perform an unusual penance: spy on Roger Bacon, the English scientist, and find proof that he practices black magic. Enrolled as a student at Oxford, Jean takes a job in Bacon's infamous laboratory, becomes a trusted assistant, and soon must choose where his loyalties lie. While the story seems compressed and the character development is sketchy, the issues, dilemmas, and plot are well defined and involving. In an afterword, the authors point out that they have taken some liberties with history and set the record straight on Roger Bacon's life. Attractive chapter headings reflect medieval art and architecture. A useful choice for those historical fiction assignments.