Author: R.J. Anderson
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Atheneum Books For Young Readers (Simon & Schuster)
In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder.
Isaveth is determined to prove his innocence. Quiz, the eccentric eyepatch-wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution.
But each clue is more perplexing than the next. Was the victim truly killed by Common Magic—the kind of crude, cheap spell that only an unschooled magician would use—or was his death merely arranged to appear that way? And is Quiz truly helping her out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own? Isaveth must figure out who she can trust if she’s to have any hope of proving her Papa’s innocence in time. . . (Goodreads)
Propped on the flour-dusted stand, the Book of Common Magic looked as innocent as the ordinary cookbooks tucked behind it.
* I received a finished copy of this book from Simon & Schuster to review. This does not affect my opinion or my review *
This book was honestly so incredibly fun. I loved all the characters (okay, some of them I loved to hate but still). I was also super invested in all the shenanigans going because who doesn’t love some good-natured trouble-making?
One thing I loved about this story was how the magic in their world managed to be incredibly complex but also simple at the same time. I hate being so ambiguous but I mean it. The general setup is simple enough, there’s the more coveted and advanced Sage magic and then that of the poorer folk or Common Magic. Where it starts to get a little messier is how the magic is made. I’m used to potions being a sciency part of the magic world but, in A Pocket Full of Murder, all of the magic is like science. It takes a very skilled and delicate hand to make the spell-tablets and someone even more advanced to perform Sage magic. The whole construction of the magic in Isaveth’s world just felt so fresh to me.
I was also a huge fan of the how the relationships were built within the story. The dynamic in Isaveth’s family felt very authentic. She and her sisters bicker and have their moments just like any siblings do; I know I have them with my little brother regularly. That, however, doesn’t mean that they aren’t 100% in one another’s corner at the end of the day. They’re all fiercely loyal to the family especially when things seem particularly bleak. Even with Quiz, Isaveth is incredibly dedicated to looking out for his well-being and shows great concern and appreciation for her new friend. She may not know him very well (or for very long) for much of the story but that doesn’t stop her from caring enough to be angry with him and then immediately be concerned that maybe he’s in danger. No relationship, friendly, familial, or romantic, is ever perfect and I love how that authenticity is worked into the story in such a subtle way.
The world Isaveth and her family know is one with an abundance of religious and social class inequity. The Moshites are openly disliked and not trusted by the majority of the rest of Tarreton’s citizens. They are on the lowest rung of the ladder and live a life of poverty and struggle. They are not the only ones suffering though. The rich are incredibly rich and live lavishly while the rest of the city watches on and hopes something changes for the better. The way these social problems were written into the story was done in a great way for the intended age-group. Many parents watch the news in the morning and/or evening and seeing content like this in a novel teaches them to identify and think about social issues and also to think critically about any information that is not 100% proven to be true. The best kind of books are the ones that are SO fun but that also teach you things when you least expect it.
Isaveth gets her own section; I just adore her. She has this unwavering determination and faith that you often only see in children. There are numerous times in the story that she could have given up (okay, I know there wouldn’t be much of a book if she had but still, work with me here!) but she pressed on. She knew in her heart that her father was innocent and she pressed on through the danger and the hopelessness. She didn’t agree with the treatment of the Moshites so she attempted to fight against that the best she could. Isaveth is a little firecracker and, although a bit reckless sometimes, a great main character for young girls to find in books. She’s strong, incredibly intelligent, passionate, caring, and a very hard worker.
This book was so much fun. Beneath that it also had a plethora of amazing lessons and learning for young (and 24-year-old) readers. R.J. Anderson has written a cast of loveable characters that really pull you into the adventure with them as well. I highly recommend this book (I did it in a book store too, I hope the lady bought it) and I really can’t wait to read it again. After the unexpected turns of event in the last parts of the books I want to see if I can sniff out any early clues on a reread. Okay, okay and I just liked it so much I want to do a reread. I live on the wild side.
2 thoughts on “A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson”
Looks like S&S is stepping up their MG Fantasy game (because, well, BLACKTHORN IS EVERYTHING) and I definitely have to consider picking this one up. It sounds explosive and fun!
I can definitely see how it’s intended for a younger audience but being a large child myself I had SO much fun with it. The characters remind me of all the quirky kids that come in to where I work and brighten my day. It’s not as heavy of a puzzle as Blackthorn is but it’s definitely QUITE the adventure. Two huge MG wins from S&S.