An orphaned 12-year-old boy receives a mysterious message on his birthday. This leads to him embarking on a life of magic, so far hidden from him. Sound familiar? Of course, it’s Archie Greene.
It wasn’t fair to invite comparison to Harry Potter, and whilst Harry and Archie are not chalk and cheese, he is still his own character. The plot follows the formula of many books for this age range. A serious threat to the school/workshop/museum looms and it is up a plucky band of friends to solve the mystery and save the day. This time it involves a cache of books that embody all of magic learning stored under the Bodleian library and accessed either through an old bookshop or a coffee shop run by a tattooed barista called Pink.
I don’t mean to sound dismissive, the plot moves along and it will entertain children of the appropriate age range. There are some lovely touches, I enjoyed the word play, Mrs. Foxe’s strange cake flavours, (chocolate and sardine, anyone?) and the coffee shop with a magic shaft of sunlight. There are black and white line illustrations throughout which match the story very well, just the right balance of realism and whimsy.
Children and some adults, particularly those who know Oxford, should get a lot of fun out of Archie and his adventures. You never know, Oxford could have a new literary fan trail on its hands.