There is something fundamentally appealing about thinking there may be a magical world that lurks just behind the real one we can all see - if only you could find a way to get there.
In ‘Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret’, when Archie receives a very old book for his birthday, little does he know that it will lead to all sorts of adventures and the chance to step inside a world he never knew existed - and one that is different and more dangerous than the one he was brought up in.
Archie has instructions to take the book to an address in Oxford. There he discovers a place his parents tried to keep from him. A world where ancient magic is kept alive. He meets relatives he didn't know he had and before he knows it he is apprenticed to a secret library and discovers that some books aren't simply content to sit on shelves all day.
It's a story with plenty to fire the imagination. Archie discovers he is descended from a series of magical folk who have a very special quest – to recover and look after magical books.
He must train in a very unusual and particular skill. He must learn the craft of the secret folk who work preserving and restoring magical books and investigating their magic.
But dark sorcerers want to get their hands on certain books and an attack on an apprentice makes Archie realise that magic can be dangerous and that the library is no longer safe – for the people who work there, or for the precious books.
While he quickly tries to learn the history of the enchanted library, and its magical folk, he also begins his training to protect the books. And he secretly tries to work out who is scheming to undermine the library and the whole magical world.
What stands out about Archie Greene is that the magical world is terrifically well created; done so it never holds up the action, yet we are rapidly introduced to a whole imagined world, a colourful cast of characters, plus the lore of the magical folk in a really short space of time.
The fact that it all seems very real, just ready for us to step into, but full of crazy, unexpected instruments and tasks we must understand, is what makes this such a treasure of a book.
Writing fantasy for younger readers must surely be challenging - creating a whole make-believe universe with a far less generous word-count than you get for older readers is a real skill. DD Everest does a wonderful job, deftly bringing the whole world of magical books to life and handling a complex plot that is accessible for young readers.
From magical creatures, history, lore, warring collectors and book thieves to riddles and secret codes – there is much Archie must understand and solve and the reader is taken on a great journey along with him.
Archie and his cousins want to ensure that the world Archie has only just discovered is not going to be destroyed forever.
It’s a thoroughly absorbing imaginative, but gripping adventure as Archie tries to discover how he can best help the books calling on his new-found friends and talents.
'Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret' is a very welcome addition to fantasy stories that will appeal to readers from eight upwards - with more adventures to come this autumn.
Review from Alex, aged 10
Archie Greene in an exciting adventure story about a boy who discovers he is magical. But that is not the only secret he finds out along the way.
He meets his two cousins, who are magical too, and they show him around and introduce him to a secret world hidden beneath a bookshop in Oxford. It is the world of the Museum of Magical Miscellany and it is full of all sorts of magical books. His cousins help him on his journey to greatness!
But the museum is under attack and although Archie must protect the books he discovers he has a rare skill and can hear the books talking. That’s when he learns that not all books need protecting – some are not to be trusted and some are even full of dark magic. Then attacks on the library begin.
So I really recommend this book. You can never put it down and it is full of magic, adventure and excitement.