I received an ARC of this.
3 out of 5 stars.
This book really reminded me of Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus”. Both feature some sort of travelling entertainment vendor that is powered by imagination and features spectacles and wonders. It is the same interesting premise, only taken down a notch for elementary school readers.
Daniel is on the run from bullies when he stumbles into a magical emporium. He escapes his pursuers, but when he is able to remember and enter the store the next day, the proprietor Mr. Silver figures he is something special. Customers are supposed to immediately forget their experiences when they exit. Daniel is offered an apprenticeship and starts to create his own masterpieces, rooms full of every magnificent thing he can imagine. Things turn sour when Mr Silver’s old mentor finds the Emporium and wants to destroy it. Daniel and Mr Silver have to figure out how to defeat an old and evil magician and save their emporium.
The world and premise of this book are beautiful, but the characters are fairly simple. There are surprising revelations about many characters, but not much growth. The plot takes place over a fairly brief time period, but the characters really remain static and fairly 2-dimensional. The main draw of this book is going to be the beautiful and interesting descriptions of the various rooms in the Emporium, and the fast-paced action. The story oscillated between Daniel’s adventures in the present and Mr. Silver’s adventures in the past, when he was learning magic as a young child. Both Daniel and Mr. Silver come up with beautiful creations and you can tell the author had a lot of fun constructing the interior of the emporium for this book. If a teacher or parent was ever reading this with their child or classroom I think it would be a ton of fun to have children invent their own rooms for the emporium, with both drawn and written descriptions. It has so much potential to just let their imaginations run wild that it could end up being a ton of fun for everyone involved.
The feminist side of myself did not really like the fact that Mr. Silver has a daughter who does not end up doing much, so the only large female character is not really that interesting. There is an in-world explanation given, but I am not sure there is a character that girls will enjoy reading about that will really speak to their experiences.
For anyone who really enjoyed this and wants more, I would recommend Bruce Coville’s “Magic Shop” series (similar premise of a magical building bringing adventures to children) and “Charlie and the Chocolate factory (young boy having adventures and possibly inheriting a magical business).
Like a lot of books for elementary students, this one was a little unsatisfactory because of the speed with which it went by, but that is going to just be part and parcel of the genre. Young readers who love magical adventures are likely to enjoy this one.