THE ACCIDENTAL APPRENTICE, by Amanda Foody, Margaret K. McElderry Books, March 30, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
Amanda Foody transports readers to world where humans bond with magical beasts in her middle-grade debut, The Accidental Apprentice.
The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.
Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.
To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.
But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him. —Synopsis provided by Margaret k. McElderry Books
I was a bit apprehensive going into The Accidental Apprentice. There’s a lot of middle-grade fantasy floating around, and I worried it wouldn’t stand out.
Boy, was I wrong!
I was instantly swept up in Barclay’s story. The poor boy works so hard, and seems to get little out of it. At least that’s what appears to be happening. But as the book progresses, you realize just how strong Barclay is. His evolution throughout the novel is less about his physical abilities and more on his mental ones. His past is what’s holding him back, but it’s also what promises a spectacular future.
Barclay’s somewhat tepid approach toward magic (aka lore) is tempered by supporting characters that offer a mix of dazzling abilities and fierce loyalty.
Author Amanda Foody does an excellent job setting up a world that feels both expansive and small at the same time. She mimics Barclay’s limited view to his immediate surroundings, but as he opens himself up to new possibilities, the world around him expands.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Accidental Apprentice, which gave me a Fablehaven-like approachability vibe. This fast-moving fantasy adventure has broad appeal — my 7-year-old is already begging to read it — that will likely lead to it becoming popular for years to come.
The Accidental Apprentice is the first book in Foody’s Wilderlore series. It takes readers to one of six Wilderland regions, setting up what could amount to six future installments. As of right now, the second book in the series is slated for a spring 2022 release.
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