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The Witch's Apprentice by Zetta Elliott

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The Witch's Apprentice: 02/13/22

The Witch's Apprentice

The Witch's Apprentice by Zetta Elliott is the third book in the Dragons in a Bag middle grade urban fantasy series. There's a magical illness affecting adults, giving them extreme fatigue. Ma and the Coven believe it's Blue again. The answer to their problem, though, lies in Chicago.

Once in the Windy City, though, Jax finds himself shunned by Ma and the other witches he traveled with. He's put in the care of a man who gives him tours of Chicago which include magical and Black history. Jax, though, has a secret of his own, in the form of a phoenix entrusted to him by his friend Vik.

As the afterword confirms, this volume is a pandemic book. There's a huge tonal shift — a sadness and a cynicism that wasn't in the previous books. But there's also hope for the younger generations (aka the intended readers of this book) that they will be able to step up in these changing times and make the world a better place.

There's also a huge cliffhanger. Hopefully this means the publisher is onboard for a fourth book. Also included in the afterword, the author explains how this book was initially a struggle to get published.

Chart showing the three books and the series' progression through the Road Narrative Spectrum.

Like the previous two books, The Witch's Apprentice sits on the Road Narrative Spectrum. At first glance, with Jax feeling smug about being Ma's apprentice, it appears that he and the others he's traveling with collectively are privileged. But the history lessons Jax receives along the way drive home the fact that Black witches are doubly marginalized (66).

The destination is the city (00), in this case Chicago. Jax's time there gives the reader a chance to learn about the city's history, especially it's Black history, though there is also time given to the native peoples who lived there before the lands were taken to make the city.

The route there is via the railroad (00). Specifically it's by the Underground Railroad. Like The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016), the UR as Ma calls it, is a literal underground railroad with magical properties. The stations and other aspects of its function, though, reminds me more of some of the secret travel methods in the Samantha Spinner series by Russell Ginns.

All together, The Witch's Apprentice is a tale of marginalized travelers going to the city via the railroad (660000).

Five stars

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