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M. L. Stainer
Joachim's Magic

Children/Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Elizabeth I’s Jewish metallurgist,Joachim Gans, faces danger from Indians and extreme prejudice from his fellow workers on the 1585 expedition to the New World. He antagonizes most except his young apprentice. Captured by the hostile Indian Chief, Pemisapan, Joachim must ultimately choose between saving the boy's life or sacrificing his deep beliefs.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 7.75 out of 10


This smart historical YA novel from Stainer follows the journey of young Reis, an apprentice to a Jewish metallurgist named Dougham. Reis follows Dougham to the New World and learns many lessons about life, survival, and prejudice. The novel is well plotted with strong prose and accurate historical detail, while the fleshed out characters learn lessons that are universal even today.


Date Submitted: June 07, 2016

In a prequel to Stainer’s Lyon Saga, originally published by Chicken Soup Press and based on the lost colony of Roanoke, 13-year-old Reis Courtney becomes an apprentice to (real-life) Jewish metallurgist Dougham Gaunse (aka Joachim Gans) in 1585, traveling with him and a team of miners to the New World in search of precious metals. Reis learns the perilous work of mining alongside the adult members of the exhibition, while navigating survival in the wilderness and attempting to decipher the behaviors of his master, which include speaking in Hebrew and refusing to eat meat. Threats come in the form of chief Pemisapan and his tribe, as well as German miners who resent Joachim. It’s a tightly woven story fully anchored in its historical era. Reis lives in active fear of witches and other supernatural beings lurking in the New World. His terror of the unknown provides a layer of psychological intrigue, hinting at the enormity of all that lay beyond colonists’ early understanding and the birth of superstitions that would continue to permeate settlers’ worldview. Ages 12–up. (BookLife)