Thursday, February 3, 2022

The Accidental Apprentice

The Accidental Apprentice
by Amanda Foody
Recommended Ages: 10+

Barclay Thorne lives in a remote, walled town called Dullshire where the locals are obsessed with rules, especially forbidding anything to do with magic (also known as Lore) or with the Beasts, with a capital B, that live in the adjacent Woods, with a capital W. But Barclay has never really belonged. Despite being a hard-working apprentice mushroom farmer, he's just too interested in tales of adventure and he can't seem to help breaking rules and getting into trouble.

Picked on by the local bullies, he's always insecure about his position with Farmer Pilzmann because, after all, he's an orphan whose parents had the bad luck to be eaten by a monster. And then a series of mishaps entirely out of his control leads Barclay to enter the forbidden Woods and unintentionally bond with a Lorebeast – a giant, wolf-like Lutfhund that sometimes takes physical form and sometimes lives on his skin like a moving tattoo. Now, whether he wants it or not (and he doesn't), Barclay has magical powers he doesn't know how to control, like being able to summon powerful winds and running with superhuman speed. It's all so very much against Dullshire's rules. So, pursued by a mob with torches and pitchforks, he flees into the Woods.

All Barclay wants is to get rid of the magic and break his bond with the Lufthund, whom he eventually names Root as in "root of all my problems." Haunted by the deaths of his parents and desperate for a sense of belonging, he refuses to accept his good fortune at being partnered with such a powerful Beast. Despite his negative attitude about it, which sometimes leads him to display bad manners, a Lore Keeper girl named Viola takes him under her wing and brings him to the guild city of Sycomore in the heart of the woods. There, if Barclay can learn enough Lore in a few weeks to take first place in an exhibition of apprentice Lore Keepers' knowledge and skill, he might be able to get one of the Wilderlands' most famous Lore Keepers to remove his bond.

But first, of course, he has to learn to make the most of it, establishing communication with Root and experiencing the thrill of running, howling, and summoning all kinds of weather phenomena with his canine companion. It's a wild feeling that calls to something deep inside him, yet Barclay still means to deny it. At the same time, he must also be careful in a lawless city where one of the most prominent Lore Keepers is the nefarious Soren Reiker, a collector of rare and dangerous Beasts who covets Root and wouldn't be above killing a boy to get it. Also, Barclay has to put up with the other apprentices' resentment of an "Elsie" (someone from the Elsewheres, the parts of the world outside the Wilderlands) horning in on their competition – especially a smug, entitled legacy named Tadg who'll immediately set off your Draco Malfoy detector.

It's a beautifully imagined world of magic, teeming with enjoyable characters and told in a delightful way. Best of all, the story is loaded with conflict, danger, dramatic surprises, creepiness, suspense and fantastic imagery. And though all these things add up to a terrific tale, it's the surprises that really surprised me the most – and lest I spoil them for you, I don't dare say any more about what happens in the story except that it's the first book of the "Wilderlore" series. A second title, The Weeping Tide, just came out on Feb. 1. Boston-based Amanda Foody has also written the "Shadow Game" trilogy of Ace of Shades, King of Fools and Queen of Volts, and is the co-author with Christine Lynn Herman of All of Us Villians and its upcoming sequel, All of Our Demise.

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