The Nowhere Emporium, by Ross MacKenzie, (Myrick Marketing and Media, LLC), 280 pages, release date 18 May, 2015
The publisher presents The Nowhere Emporium as being written for 8 to 12 year-olds. But I’m in my 50s, and The Nowhere Emporium is one of the most delightful reads I’ve come across in a long time.
Daniel Holmes, an orphan, is recruited as an apprentice to Lucian Silver, the proprietor of the Nowhere Emporium. The Emporium is a storefront, moving about in location and time, that opens into an infinite number of magical rooms. People enter it, are awed, then leave, forgetting all they’ve seen, but retaining the sense of wonder the Emporium inspired. The Emporium is created from a powerful blend of magic and imagination, and the aging Mr. Silver can no longer hold it intact on his own. Can Daniel be trained in time to keep the Empoium whole and save it from its great enemy?
I find myself comparing this book to the Harry Potter series, something I hadn’t thought I’d ever do, since Rowling’s series is pretty much the sacred text of my reading life. The Nowhere Emporium parallels the Potter books in many ways: the hero is an orphan longing to bring his dead parents back to life; it takes place in a magical setting with moving staircases; it warns of the way that doing wrong to others can rip a soul to pieces. Despite these similarities, The Nowhere Emporium is very much its own creature, not a rehash of another work.
Reading The Nowhere Emporium has got me thinking about the nature of fantasy. One the one hand, by definition fantasy should be infinitely varied. On the other hand, fantasy is populated by recurring motifs. Think of fairy tales—pretty much without exception they focus on a young, lonely, unappreciated or ill-used heroine/hero who must overcome a great evil in order to set the world to rights, and who carves out a magical existence for her/himself in the process. And we—readers, children, humans—have an endless appetite for such tales. One satisfying fantasy tale leaves one hungry for more.
The Nowhere Emporium is such a book, making what could be familiar themes fresh and engaging. Ignore the ages 8 to 12 recommendation and give yourself the pleasure of reading this particular bit of magic.