In this sequel to Joachim's Magic, Joachim Gans and his apprentice, Reis Courtney, return to England after the failed 1585 exploration. The Jewish metallurgist, Queen Elizabeth I's favorite, is sent to Bristol to work on ways to make saltpeter for gunpowder. Prejudice follows them everywhere. At a local inn, Joachim is asked if he believes Christ is divine. He's tried for blasphemy by replying, "What need hath God for a son, is he not Almighty?" The Bristol court can't reach a decision and sends him to London to continue the trial by the Queen's Privy Council. They eventually release him and he goes to Neath, in Wales. Finally he returns to his native Bohemia, leaving Reis to work as a horse trainer on a wealthy gentleman's farm.
Stainer, M.L. Joachim: The Heretic. 200p. Outskirts. Mar. 2017. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781478786443.
Gr 5-8–Using the bare bones of the historic figure of Joachim Gans, chief metallurgist of Elizabeth I, Stainer further develops the relationship between Joachim and his fictional apprentice, Reis Courtney (who were introduced in Joachim’s Magic). Having failed to find large veins of copper in Tidewater Virginia in 1585, Joachim and Reis return to England. Joachim, who is Jewish, is respected for his knowledge and skill but despised for his faith and ethnicity. Reis has the utmost respect and admiration for his master, and his understanding of Joachim’s faith grows and allows him to accept wisdom found in the Talmud. Because of his close relationship with Joachim, Reis stands by him during Joachim’s heresy trial for denying the Protestant Trinity. Joachim is not convicted but ultimately decides to return to his native Bohemia. He and Reis continue their relationship through a series of letters, with Reis always seeking advice and wisdom from his elder. They have the ideal mentor/mentee relationship—encouraging, correcting, and loving. Reis has the opportunity to return to the New World in search of the famed El Dorado but is torn because of the good life he and others have made. The description of the grinding despair of poverty is depressingly accurate. Reis’s escape is familiar—he perseveres through education and confidence. This gem weaves history smoothly into the story, and the transitions from historical figures to fictional characters are seamless. The dialogue is excellent, and the message of religious tolerance is a timely lesson. VERDICT A superb addition to historical fiction collections.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI