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The Alchemaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers

The Alchemaster's Apprentice (2007)

by Walter Moers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Zamonia (5), Zamonien (5)

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English (18)  German (5)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All (25)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Every new-to-me Walter Moers book I pick up immediately becomes my new favorite Walter Moers book, and thus one of my favorite books, full stop. This has happened ever since I first stumbled across a somewhat battered copy of Rumo and his Miraculous Adventures several years ago at my local public library and wondered what the hell was going on with that. One is always going on with the mix of over-the-top imaginative fantasy, adorable illustrations, sophisticated plotting and outrageous wordplay that is Walter Moers. Oh, do I love this man. And his translator into English, the wonderfully named John Brownjohn, who has the unenviable task of turning all of those invented and ordinary compound German nouns and verbs into something intelligible in English without losing any of the original's wit and charm and, as far as I can tell, succeeds brilliantly.

Or at any rate, if Brownjohn is in any way not hitting Moers' mark, then I'm not sure I could handle more Moers. As such. Feel free to throw something at me now.

The Alchemaster's Apprentice is another Zamonia book, Zamonia being, of course, a lost continent that once took up most of the Atlantic Ocean and was home not only to sentient and literate dinosaurs who achieved a very high standard of culture indeed (at least a high Middle Ages standard), but to a myriad of other astonishing creatures as well, including the new-to-this-fifth-novel Crat. A Crat being a sort of cat who can speak every language, human or animal, in the known world, and whose body fat is an alchemist's, well, I would say an alchemist's philosopher's stone, but everyone knows that the philosopher's stone is the alchemists' philosopher's stone, so something just short of that. At any rate, very desirable indeed.

Enter one Succubius Ghoolion*, titular Alchemaster, who is a sort of Jean-Baptiste Greouille through Moers' funhouse mirror in that, like the perfidious perfumer of Suskind's most famous novel, he is obsessed with capturing the essences of things in the most durable possible form, that form being the rendered fat of rare and fabulous creatures like Crats. Of whom Ghoolion suspects our adorable little hero, Echo the Kitty Crat, to possibly be the very last one. Um.

What follows from this state of affairs is another deliciously daffy Moers adventure -- perhaps the most delicious of all because, when Ghoolion finds Echo, Echo is starving to death and has no fat on him, but Ghoolion is a culinary genius and so sets about fattening his foundling in outlandishly opulent ways. If one doesn't drool through at least a few of these chapters, one is obviously some kind of icky ascetic who subsists on room temperature water and celery sticks or something.** Echo befriends a cyclopean owl-type thing who speaks in spoonerisms (Brownjohn must have had a heck of a time with those. He needs all of the awards for translating. All of them, do you understand me?) and is dedicated to helping Echo escape the terrible fate that awaits him, learns a lot of alchemical secrets, eats a lot of absurdly delicious food, and develops a charmingly weird relationship with Ghoolion in the process.

Along the way he picks up some other weird allies, such as a Cooked Ghost (which Echo helps to cook himself as part of his education), a couple thousand Leathermice (like extraordinarily ugly vampire bats with extremely strange habits of thought. Nobody understands Leathermice, dude. Not even Leathermice), and the last remaining Uggly in the city -- an Uggly being, of course, a sort of gypsy practitioner of a natural/homeopathic/herbal medicine that is pretty much the absolute antithesis of what Ghoolion does. Who despite Ghoolion's long history of persecution of Ugglies in every horrible way imaginable, has a crush on Ghoolion. Yeah, it's complicated.

It all builds to a thrilling and insane climax, Moers' best yet! So yeah, The Alchemaster's Apprentice is my new favorite Walter Moers. At least until the next one.

But yeah, I'm still puzzled about that roast wildfowl Echo was sort of tricked into eating mid-story. That's a head-scratcher of a loose end. But Echo does spend a lot of this novel tripping balls on some hallucinogenic meal or other... so... umm... yeah, I've got nothing.

*The character names are part of the fun of Moers, most of them being anagrams of popular authors' names, though so far I can't figure out whose name became Succubius Ghoolion, and I have tried. Oh, have I tried. But I'm a poor hand at anagram solving.

**Seriously, the food porn in this book is completely off the hook. Imagine Lewis Carroll and China Mieville collaborating on a cookbook and you might just get a hint of the flavor. WOW. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
This is a great fantasy novel in all the best ways. I found myself comparing it a little bit to a Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman with a dash of Douglas Adams. Originally written in German, it definitely has the feel of a traditional fairy tale a la the Brother's Grimm.

The story revolves around Echo the Crat (yes, Crat, that is not a spelling error) who has been captured by the local Alchemaster of Malaisea, his name is Ghoolion, and Echo is being held and fattened up so that the Alchemaster can obtain his fat for his potion library.

As the story rolls along, we find out more about Ghoolion and how Malaisea became the illness capital of the Kingdom of Zamonia. We find out more about Echo and what it means to be a Crat. Echo has the opportunity not only to eat to his hearts content, but also to explore Ghoolion's castle – a place the locals fear and dread.

Along the way, Echo makes friends with Leathermice (a vampiric race of mice/bats), Theodore T. Theodore (an owl with a speech impediment), Cooking Ghosts, a Snow White Widow, Ugglies, a mossback Toad and a whole host of other fantastical residents of Malaisea. There is a method and means to Ghoolion's madness that unfolds as the story unfolds.

I try to read widely and from all genre's. This book was given to me as a gift and I am glad I got it because I doubt I would have grabbed it off the shelf under my own volition. You know how it is – you go to your favorite bookstore and you tend to gravitate to those shelves that usually yield you a reliable selection. I am not a discerning enough fan of fantasy to always grab these novels, so often, I am introduced to authors through friends giving me gifts or making recommendations.

I have also discovered something about readers – unless they are fantasy fans from the outset, many readers are adamantly opposed to dipping their toes into this genre. I'm not sure why. Partly I think it comes from an inability or unwillingness to suspend belief. Partly because readers feel that the fantasy genre somehow translates to children's writing. Another(no offense intended here) the genre is associated with fan geeks. For me, it has been because there aren't many stand alone pieces in the genre. They all revolve around a series and one feels that once you have committed to one book, you just have to read the rest.

This is the beginning of a series. However, I would be very comfortable in advising those who find the ideas and story intriguing, that it can be read as a stand alone novel. There is resolution at the end of the story as well as an opening for future works. And for those who love the genre, there are future works.

The other thing I loved about this story is that it is written by a European author and translated into English. I always find it refreshing to read authors who are from other countries. Their viewpoint on the world enriches me as a reader and engages my imagination as a writer to explore the world in different ways.

This is a book for all ages. It can be read to children (although there are some parts that small children would consider frightening or scary.) It is a great novel for an older elementary schooler to cut their teeth on in adult fiction. It is great for adults because the story is engaging and fun with a bit of black humor. An easy 4 stars for all to enjoy. ( )
  ozzieslim | Mar 4, 2016 |
The Alchemaster's Apprentice is a stand-alone novel set in the Zamonian world created by German author Walter Moers. His books are some of my favorite stories ever and this one was no exception. It's the story of Echo the crat (a cat that can talk in any language to any creature) and the countdown to the end of his life. His caregiver has died and he's slowly starving to death until he is taken in by the evil Alchemaster (like a magical tyrant). The Alchemaster promises to fatten up the little crat with the most delicious foods ever imagined under one condition -- at the next full moon, he will be allowed to kill the crat and harvest his fat.

I know this sounds super strange but it's actually a beautiful tale with tons of suspense and action but also lots of thoughtful musing. All of Moers books are incredibly readable so I have to also give credit to his English translator, John Brownjohn.

http://webereading.com/2015/12/three-quirky-reads.html ( )
  klpm | Jan 7, 2016 |
It is quite funny that I stumbled across this German author here in New Zealand. I loved his Captain Blaubaer stories and we watched it every Sunday.
The book is about a crat which basically is a very clever cat. He can speak any language and can memorize everything. He gets into a contract with an Alchemaster of a city which means he will lose his life soon at the hands of the alchemaster.
The story is nice fairy tale with all a fairy tale has to have. A wizard a sort of a witch, monsters and talking animals. It is a fairy tale for adults or older kids. I wouldn't read it to a small child because it might cause them nightmares. ( )
  PeterNZ | May 11, 2015 |
This was my second Walter Moers book, the first being The City of Dreaming Books. He's the MOST imaginative writer I've come across in a while, and I'll definitely be reading the rest of his books. But not only am I amazed at the creativity of Moers, I'm stunned by the translation into English. The original German prose is filled with made-up words, and the English translation SOMEHOW manages to retain the author's intended impressions (at least I presume). It's very hard to explain what I mean by this, but just read a few pages of any of his books and you'll begin to understand.

I almost wish I could read this in its original German. Almost.

I should add that I'm reading his books in paperback rather than on the Kindle because of the wonderful illustrations that add so much to the story.

And by the way, it apparently doesn't matter if you read the Zamonia series in order. I started with #3, then #4...maybe I'll go to #1 next. ( )
  MichiganKim | Nov 5, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Walter Moersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brownjohn, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Picture to yourself the sickest place in the whole of Zamonia!
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Malaisea is the unhealthiest town in the whole of Zamonia, home to Echo the Crat, a multi-talented creature that resembles a cat but is capable of speaking any language under the sun. When his mistress dies and Echo finds himself starving on the street, he is compelled to sign a contract with Ghoolion the Alchemaster, Malaisea's evil alchemist-in-chief. This fateful document gives Ghoolion the right to kill Echo at the next full moon and render him down for his fat, with which he hopes to brew an immortality potion. But Ghoolion has not reckoned for Echo's talent for survival, and his ability to make new friends..."--Dust jacket.… (more)

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