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Book Review: The Conjurer’s Riddle By Andrea Cremer
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The Conjurer's Riddle by Andrea Cremer

The Conjurer’s Riddle
Hardcover | Kindle
Sequel to The Inventor’s Secret
By Andrea Cremer
Philomel Books | Penquin Random House Young Readers
Release date: November 3, 2015

What would have become of North America had the British won the Revolutionary War? That’s the premise of Andrea Cremer’s The Inventor’s Secret book series, which creates an alternate 19th-century history where the British Empire has dominion over the New World as an underground Resistance rebels against it. The exiled children of the rebellion reside in the Catacombs in the New York Wildlands, where they stay in hiding from the Empire as they grow up without their parents until they come of age and can join the fight.

In The Conjurer’s Riddle, the second book of the series, 16-year-old Charlotte returns to the Catacombs after the caverns are set ablaze, leaving the children no shelter. She has no idea what happened to cause the destruction of their home, but there’s no time to figure it out, as she now must lead the young refugees to safety. Her final destination is New Orleans, the rendezvous point for the Resistance, but first she must find a way to get there.

Charlotte’s journey is a dangerous one, as she not only must travel with the children and keep them safe, but she also has to do so under the watchful eye of the Empire. Helping her are other youngsters: Pip, a tinker’s apprentice; Scoff, who’s into alchemy and apothecary; and Grave, a boy with great strength and abilities, but no memory of his past. Grave is not like anyone else Charlotte has ever known, and the story of the boy’s existence is a fantastical one. But as time goes on, it’s clear that Grave is special and there’s more to him than anyone could imagine, which is why both the Resistance and the Empire want to get their hands on him. While Charlotte is not surprised at the Empire desire to exploit Grave, she’s shocked to learn that the Resistance wants to use the boy as a weapon in their battle for freedom, which makes her question whether the cause deserves her undying loyalty.

Cremer’s new book gives young readers a fast-paced tale that never lags, as it builds upon the steampunk world the author created in The Inventor’s secret, where the inhabitants worship the ancient Greek gods. The characters commonly and frequently utter exclamations* like “Athene’s helm” and “Hephaestus’s hammer” and sail on ships with names like Perseus and Aphrodite.

Having not read the first book, I found its sequel to be slightly confusing in the beginning. It was obvious to me that pieces of the story were missing, but thankfully, they were filled in eventually, especially the details of Grave’s coming into being. I also found that I was eager for Charlotte and her group to get to New Orleans so I could witness the goings on of the Resistance. While there was plenty of action throughout the book, the start focused on getting the smaller children to safety. As an adult, I found it difficult to read about the little children struggling to survive and to think of them without the comfort and care of their parents. But, once the rendezvous point was reached, I found I could truly enjoy the tale being told, which included the reintroduction of several people from Charlotte’s past: Her brother, Ashley, as well as other family members; Ash’s love interest, Meg; and Charlotte’s close confidant, Linnet, along with Linnet’s brothers, Coe and Jack, both of whom are vying for Charlotte’s affections.

The love triangle element of the story seems to have been decreased from the first book, where Charlotte and Jack had something special that was ruined. Charlotte handles herself well in this scenario (although her emotions are secretly in chaos), but the best portions of The Conjurer’s Riddle pertain to Grave, his situation, and the growth of his character. The altercation with the title conjurer was one of the best parts of the book, as was the ending, which I won’t spoil here, but suffice it to say, it looks like the author plans to continue this tale.

The Conjurer’s Riddle is a young readers selection, so it’s for people 12 years old and up. The writing is at a level where adults can enjoy it, but since most of the characters are children, you can expect some juvenile dialogue and emotions throughout. Although, the older characters will say such lines as, “I should have thought to warn you, given your proclivity for daring deeds,” so there will be plenty of new words for the younger audiences to learn here. Charlotte, especially with her being on the cusp of adulthood, often swings between naive, lovesick teenager and mature responsible nurturing adult, which is not uncommon for people her age. For teen readers, Charlotte, who is actually a fierce, competent fighter, is an appropriate antagonist, while her slightly younger sidekicks will appeal more to the 12-year-olds.

*Note, the version I read of The Conjurer’s Riddle was an advanced uncorrected proof from the publisher, so any quotations noted here from the book are subject to change from the published edition.

The Revolution is beginning–and Charlotte may be on the wrong side.

In this sequel to The Inventor’s Secret, Charlotte and her companions escape the British Empire, but they haven’t left danger behind. In fact, if they go against the revolutionaries, they face even greater peril.

Charlotte leads her group of exiles west, plunging into a wild world of shady merchants and surly rivermen on the way to New Orleans. But as Charlotte learns more about the revolution she has championed, she wonders if she’s on the right side after all. Charlotte and her friends get to know the mystical New Orleans bayou and deep into the shadowy tunnels below the city–the den of criminals, assassins and pirates–Charlotte must decide if the revolution’s goals justify their means, or if some things, like the lives of her friends, are too sacred to sacrifice.

This alternate-history adventure series asks the questions: What would have happened if America had lost the Revolutionary War? And what would people be willing to do to finally taste freedom?

The Conjurer's Riddle by Andrea Cremer cover

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