Book Review: “A Handful of Magic” by Stephen Elboz

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A Handful of Magic
by Stephen Elboz

Kit Stixby lives in an alternate-history version of Victorian England. His father, Sir Charles Stixby, is the Witch Doctor to Queen Victoria herself. But when Kit gets into a bit of trouble with the queen’s favorite grandson Prince Henry –– nothing much, only Henry does get bitten by a werewolf – Sir Charles falls out of favor.

In fact, magic in general may be doomed, the way things start to go. The Queen listens to nobody but Stafford Sparks, a magic-hating scientist and inventor who wants to do away with warm, wizardly glow balls and replace them with electric lights. The march of progress looks like it is going to trample the old ways in the dust. But when Kit begins to suspect that Sparks is up to no good, it falls to him to save Prince Henry, restore the good name of magic users everywhere, and stop the technological villain before he can carry out his evil plans.

Kit is aided by a gang of grubby young wizards from the East End of London, an affectionate flying carpet, stuffy old Aunt Pearl and her Shakespeare-quoting friend, a flock of fiercely protective gargoyles, and of course, the ability to point his hand and make amazing things happen. But when he is betrayed by a friend and forced to do his enemy’’s bidding in an environment shielded from magic, will that be enough?

It must be, because this book is only the beginning of a series in which Kit repeatedly foils the schemes of the magic-hating archcriminal Stafford Sparks. Harry Potter fans will warm to Kit instantly. They’’re practically identical –– except that Kit rides a carpet instead of a broom. And his father and aunt are still alive. And he has all of his adventures away from school (which is a little wizarding academy called Eton, by the way). Oh yes, and the Dark Lord he comes up against isn’’t a wizard at all. But other than that, and the quirky 19th-century setting with a sky full of airships and streets crowded with steam-driven vehicles, a world where magic is done openly and for the benefit of all mankind… other than that, they’’re exactly the same!

Well, you get my point. It’’s COMPLETELY original, but lots and lots of fun, just right for a kid coming off a round-the-clock Harry Potter bender!