Another rave review for the great Walter Moers and his new novel The Alchemaster's Apprentice: "Moers is a German author and cartoonist who has had five books translated into English (four of which are set in Zamonia). The most recent being The Alchemaster’s Apprentice. These books can be read in any order, so don’t worry about starting with the newest book first. What Moers has done is set about exploring Zamonia – so while characters may make cameos in eachothers’ stories, this is not a chronologically told tale. You will not be following the continuing saga of one single character or event through a series of books. Instead, with each story the reader is allowed to pop in and out of different sections and cities of Zamonia. You learn about Wolpertings and Crats, Lindworms and Blue Bears, Shark Grubs and more. You’ll visit Bookholm, the Netherworld and, in this newest adventure, Malaisea.
And the cause of all this sickness is Ghoolion the Terrible, the Alchemaster of the book’s title and resident of the creepy-looking castle. Echo, a Crat (looks like a cat, but can speak any language and has two livers), is our hero. After his mistress’ death he is left to starve on the streets of Malaisea. Ghoolion finds Echo and offers him a Faustian bargain. Until the full moon he will feed Echo the most delicious foods the Crat has ever eaten and teach Echo all his alchemical secrets. Then, at month’s end, Ghoolion will render Echo down for his fat to use in experiments (Crat fat being extremely rare). Seeing no other option other than starvation, Echo agrees.
Moers is not only an inventive writer, he is also a very funny one. As the story progresses, Ghoolion (not without a certain charisma) and Echo form a demented odd couple. The Alchemaster more than keeps to his part of the bargain – and the two main characters seem to develop a mutual respect which borders on friendship. Their interactions, even moreso than Echo’s quest to break his contract, really propel the plot forward. (In fact, if it wasn’t for the whole killing the Crat for his fat and torturing the citizens of Malaisea with fear and disease – we’d be rooting for team Ghoolian).
The subtitle of The Alchemaster’s Apprentice is A Culinary Tale from Zamonia – and the Zamonian delicacies Ghoolion prepares for Echo are an important (as well as entertaining) element of the story (What comes next is one of the funniest scenes in the book, but we won’t ruin it for you). The Alchemaster’s Apprentice is a story that you lose yourself in – the very definition of escapist literature. It has a cast of supporting characters and settings – all examples of Zamonian flora and fauna – that will fascinate and enchant you. And when you finish, we promise you’ll want to get the rest of the series: Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures; The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Blue Bear, and The City of Dreaming Books. You can pass them on to your friends or just wait for them to discover the books themselves. Suggestions: The Zamonia novels are perfect to share with the little people in your life. Whether as a bedtime story that won’t put you to sleep, or just to give you something to talk about on the car trip to the grandparents (nothing like discussing Leathermice philosophy with your favorite tween) – there’s something here for everyone."