A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson

10:00 AM

Title: A Pocket Full of Murder (Uncommon Magic #1)
Author: R.J. Anderson
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Source: Hardcover provided by Simon & Schuster Canada
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Overall: 4 STARS

A determined young girl joins forces with an adventure-loving street boy to solve a magical murder mystery—and save her father’s life—in this action-packed novel with classic mystery appeal.

In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder.

Isaveth is determined to prove his innocence. Quiz, the eccentric, eye patch–wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution. But is Quiz truly helping Isaveth out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own?

My Thoughts: 
R.J. Anderson's latest middle grade novel, A Pocket Full of Murder, introduces a memorable fantasy world divided by religion and social class as twelve-year-old Isaveth Breck races against time to solve a murder and save her father. In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy nobility use a refined magic called Sagery while commoners use the more practical, everyday magic simply called Common Magic. But this magical world is far from wondrouswhile the nobility live in lavish excess, the poor struggle to find work and feed their families.

Ever since Isaveth's mother passed away months ago, life has been harder for her and her family. When their father couldn't find any jobs as a stonemason, Isaveth's older sister, Annagail, was forced to quit school to work in a shirt factory, and their aunt very reluctantly cares for her two younger sisters, Mimmi and Lilet, during the day. Isaveth is doing all that she can to support her family by baking spell-tablets to sell on the streets.

But when their father is accused of murdering one of the most influential men in Tarreton, Isaveth must team up with a mysterious street boy named Quiz to find the true murderer. Political tensions are escalating in the city, and Isaveth is her father's only hope. She knows in her heart her papa is innocent, but the Lawkeepers are already convinced he's guilty of the crime. Not only is Isaveth's father a man of Moshite religion, a minority among the Unifying, but he's also a member of the Workers' Club, an organization trying to attain equality for the lower class. 

Isaveth is the kind of girl who believes in the best of people, that justice and goodness will always prevail at the end of day. Perhaps it's a naive notion, a reflection of Isaveth's age, since she lives in a city that discriminates against her Moshite faith and low social status, but I still adored her relentless resilience and optimism. Even when the odds are so terribly stacked against Isaveth, giving up is simply not an option to her.

And I absolutely loved Isaveth's relationship with her three sisters: Annagail, Mimmi, and Lilet. Her youngest sisters bicker and fight, often jealous that one sister has what the other does not, but you know that it's just natural, trivial problems that all siblings experience. Annagail spends long days at the factory and returns home tired, so Isaveth often shoulders the responsibility of cooking and stopping Mimmi and Lilet from causing too much mischief. But no matter what happens, the Breck sisters will always stick together in the end.

Brimming with magic and thrilling adventure, R.J. Anderson's A Pocket Full of Murder is a captivating murder mystery that held my attention right until the final page. There's just so much to love about this book! When Isaveth and Quiz are not following the trail of a murderer, the novel's focus on friendship and family captured my heart... and perfectly balanced the darker themes of racial and social discrimination. Tarreton is not a kind city to a girl like Isaveth, but her brave heart and curious mind give me hope she will accomplish all her dreams. I absolutely can't wait to see what happens next in the sequel! 

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