From School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-It is 1954, and 16-year-old Janie attends a private school in New Hampshire. When her roommate's father, Mr. Magnusson, kidnaps her and holds her hostage on a Malay island, Janie's friends Benjamin and Pip come after her. Despite living on three different continents, the friends share a special bond. In The Apothecary (Putnam, 2011), they harnessed the Pharmacopoeia, a magical apothecary manual, to stop Russia's first nuclear weapons test. Janie then returned home with her parents, Pip became a London actor, and Benjamin pursued humanitarian work in Asia. Now Benjamin must decide how the Pharmacopoeia might rescue Janie and stop Magnusson's plans for his own weapon. Nuanced secondary characters like Magnusson's wife and another apothecary named Jin Lo round out a detailed story. Beloved characters, lyric prose, and exotic settings continue to characterize Meloy's distinguished world-building. However, the three friends spend the novel adrift and alone, physically and metaphorically, and readers may find this sequel less emotionally satisfying than the first book. With more active escape scenes and only a few pages spent together, Janie and her friends seem frozen in fight-or-flight mode, and little character development occurs in the book. Janie manages to resolve her relationship quandary with Benjamin, but Pip is broadly sketched, and the ending is abrupt. Numerous story threads that weave characters and globe-trotting adventures together flash by with confusing rapidity. Series readers will pore over the death-defying escapes and hope the third book reunites the trio more successfully.-Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CTα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In The Apothecary (2011), Janie was caught up in a fantastic series of events that included everything from Hollywood blacklisting to magical elixirs. Now 16, she hasn’t seen first-love Benjamin Burrows or his father, whose talents at potion making help save the world from an atomic bomb. A perilous situation reignites the relationship, albeit only through a potion that links the teens’ thoughts. That’s enough, however, to show Benjamin that Janie is in grave danger, and he must save her. Unfortunately, doing so involves being turned into a bird, sailing through cyclones, and fighting off cannibals. Also looking for Janie are the magical Jin Lo, on her way after letting her murdered family’s spirits free in China, and saucy Brit Pip, swatting away the girls as he goes. Meloy boldly weaves the disparate strings of the story together in inventive—sometimes breathtaking—ways. More nuanced than the first book, this brings together a large and intriguing cast and explores their knotty relationships. The sometimes hole-filled plot becomes less and less important, but the characters become more memorable as the pages fly by. Grades 6-9. --Ilene Cooper