cover image Joachim’s Magic

Joachim’s Magic

M.L. Stainer, illus. by James Melvin. Outskirts, $16.95 paper (234p) ISBN 978-1-4787-5497-8

In a prequel to Stainer’s Lyon Saga, originally published by Chicken Soup Press and based on the lost colony of Roanoke, 13-year-old Reis Courtney becomes an apprentice to (real-life) Jewish metallurgist Dougham Gaunse (aka Joachim Gans) in 1585, traveling with him and a team of miners to the New World in search of precious metals. Reis learns the perilous work of mining alongside the adult members of the exhibition, while navigating survival in the wilderness and attempting to decipher the behaviors of his master, which include speaking in Hebrew and refusing to eat meat. Threats come in the form of chief Pemisapan and his tribe, as well as German miners who resent Joachim. It’s a tightly woven story fully anchored in its historical era. Reis lives in active fear of witches and other supernatural beings lurking in the New World. His terror of the unknown provides a layer of psychological intrigue, hinting at the enormity of all that lay beyond colonists’ early understanding and the birth of superstitions that would continue to permeate settlers’ worldview. Ages 12–up. (BookLife)