Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret
By D. D. Everest
Published by Faber and Faber
ISBN 978 0 571 30905 4
Archie Greene is not looking forward to the long summer holidays because he'll have nothing to do and no one to hang out with. Archie yearns for something new to do: everything around him is old, even his clothes.
Archie's parents drowned in a tragic accident at sea, and his gran has brought him up ever since. Archie loves her, and never feels sorry for himself, but he wonders sometimes what his life would be like if his parents were still alive.
On Archie's 12th birthday, a mysterious stranger knocks on the door bearing a mysterious package. Archie has no idea that life is about to change completely as he enters the world of magic.
Ringing any bells yet? The author's double initials, and a book title featuring the hero's name? It is inevitable that D. D. Everest's Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret is going to be compared to Harry Potter with its central story, pun-based names, magical creatures, and a Hermione-type pal to help Archie sort out all the magical mystery and mayhem. But does it offer anything beyond that?
Despite being lauded as the next Harry Potter, D. D. Everest's first Archie Greene adventure doesn't hold a candle to J. K. Rowling's masterwork. It's best to approach Archie on his own merits as a likeable enough hero in an exciting enough, but uninspired, adventure. Readers too young to have experienced Potter mania will get a lot out of it, but the rest of us will find it a slight and unoriginal read.
The package contained a book, and a message telling Archie to take the book to an ancient bookshop named the Aisle of White in the university city of Oxford. The book turns out to be the fifth volume in a series of black magic books written by a dark magician called Baarzak.
The bookshop is a front for a hidden library containing works from the Ancient Library of Alexandria, where the Emperor Alexander stored all the books on magic he could track down.
Archie becomes an apprentice bookbinder, and learns he is a book whisperer, someone who can hear books talk. Now the volumes begin to release their magic and suck the new apprentice into to a dangerous alternative world.
Hanging onto the coattails of something much more substantial and better written, this first tale does throw up a few twists and turns. It's the whole central concept that is unoriginal and well-trodden. Read this and then move on to the real thing.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com