The ApothecaryThe Apothecary by Maile Meloy

I almost wish I’d read this one in print instead of listening to it – the narration is competent, but it never quite added anything to the story. I suspect the illustrations in the print version might have added more. My only quibble with the narration was that her accents occasionally crept over into the narration.

The story itself is a promising blend of historical fiction and fantasy, with the potential to explore larger political themes. I loved the bits of the book that set the stage – the shift from California to London, the weather and food and cultural differences. The fantastic elements were nicely done, explained within the context of the story and with a bit of fun to balance out the serious parts.

I think the primary thing that stopped me from loving the book more was a disconnect between the age of the characters and the tone of the story. I was so surprised to find that Janie was in high school – my first impression of her was that she was much younger, maybe 10 or 11 or 12, tops. She never rang true as a high schooler – and the whole story just felt younger. Perhaps Meloy did that to make her independence more plausible, but I either wanted the characters to be younger or the tone to be more sophisticated.

At any rate, I enjoyed this and would recommend it to kids who enjoy stories that are a mix of reality and fantasy.

Source: my public library

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