Ursu, Anne. The Real Boy.
24 September 2013, Walden Pond Press
Copy provided by the publisher
Oscar is the downtrodden assistant of the only magician left in the Barrow, the lower class but magical market town for the shining city of Asteri. He is abused by the apprentice, Wolf, until Wolf is brutally murdered in the forest. Caleb has magical business on the Continent, so leaves Oscar to run the shop, with few instructions. Since Oscar usually collects and processes the herbs used in the spells for sale, he doesn't do well dealing with customers. Luckily, the apprentice of the healer sees his plight and helps him out. Callie teaches him how to interact with others and is a great comfort when things slowly go more and more awry. Callie is desperately trying to cure the sick children in Asteri, to no avail, but worse problems are arising. The shops in the Barrow are all attacked, and many are destroyed. The destruction spreads as far as the green house were Caleb grows herbs, and the forest as well. With the number of sick children growing, Callie and Oscar try to figure out what has gone wrong in the Barrow and to fix it before it is too late.
Strengths: There are lots of twists in this, and I don't want to ruin them! The friendship between Callie and Oscar was my favorite part, and I also liked that he had support from his cats as well as the local baker (who was once a magician). Points also for having a semi Victorian setting rather than a medieval one. As always from this author, beautiful writing.
Weaknesses: I found the message of this one confusing. Is magic good? Evil? Good only if used appropriately? And was I missing Pinocchio references? They seemed to be there, but weren't carried through. There were parts of this that I adored, but also parts I did not. The buzz I've heard so far backs up my thought that this will be enjoyed more by teachers than students. Still adore The Chronus Chronicles!