The Apothecary

Publisher: Andersen Press

Review

It's 1952 and fourteen-year-old Janie has been forced to swap sunshine, beaches and orange trees in California for a new life in cold, grey post-war London. At first, her new home seems unbearably grim and dreary, but then she meets a new friend, the rebellious Benjamin, who dreams of becoming a spy, as well as his kindly father, an apothecary. But everything changes when Benjamin's father mysteriously disappears, first entrusting Janie and Benjamin with a precious book full of recipes for medicines and magical potions named the Pharmacopoeia. Janie and Benjamin know they must protect the book at all costs, and keep it safe from the sinister enemies that are appearing on all sides - but what has happened to Benjamin's father, and what are the secrets that the Pharmacopoeia hides?

Accompanied with atmospheric black-and-white illustrations by Ian Schoenherr, the first children's book from US author Mailie Meloy is an unusual and extraordinary mystery, drawing on everything from nuclear physics to alchemy.

Shifting between spy thriller and enchanting fantasy, The Apothecary is a skilful blend of the magical with the very real nuclear threat of the 1950s. Beautifully-written and intriguing, with two very appealing central characters in Janie and Benjamin, this sensitive, often poignant and unusual adventure is spellbinding.

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