The Evil Wizard Smallbone

Delia Sherman. Candlewick, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7636-8805-9
After 12-year-old Nick Reynaud flees his abusive uncle, he's taken on as an apprentice by the wizard Zachariah Smallbone, who lives in the secluded, electronics-free Maine town of Smallbone Cove. Instead of being taught magic, Nick winds up managing the wizard's bookstore, cooking his meals, and trying to avoid getting turned into a spider (again). With the help of the store's books, Nick begins to harness his own powers, just as the seal-people his master has sworn to protect are threatened by the shape-shifting wolf wizard Fidelou. In an imaginative contemporary landscape of magical pelts and powerful tomes, Sherman (The Freedom Maze) delivers a cast of richly developed characters, though their backstories, as well as the magical history of Smallbone Cove, remain somewhat vague. Instead, the narrative focuses primarily on Nick's character growth as it builds to a climactic clash between wizards. Themes that include the importance of self-confidence and self-knowledge, as well as the power of appearances and of reading, should resonate with a broad range of readers. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/2016
Release date: 09/13/2016
Genre: Children's
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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