A preteen becomes a sorcerer’s apprentice.
Joey Kopecky, 13, is less than thrilled with his luck. After mysteriously acing a series of tests, the middling student is transferring to Exemplar Academy, an elite school that’s in session year-round. At his admission interview Joey is asked to take one final test, and the room around him vanishes. In its place is an old theater and a washed-up magician named Redondo the Magnificent. Through hurried exposition Joey learns that magic is real, but its power has been reduced in the modern world. Two ancient societies of magicians war over the remaining magic, and Joey has been chosen to turn the tide. The ensuing adventure story is well-paced and sprinkled with just enough humor and action to keep readers engaged, but the result, at 400 pages and counting, is a bit hollow. This series opener has an excellent sense of genre conventions but misses that special something, that little bit of thought that puts the title over the top. Instead it takes its place among a million Harry Potter and Percy Jackson riffs that will certainly scratch the itch in a pinch but won’t do well when it comes time to weed overfull bookshelves. The book adheres to the white default.
A serviceable charmer. (Fantasy. 10-14)