The Nowhere Emporium – Ross MacKenzie
When the mysterious Nowhere Emporium arrives in Glasgow, orphan Daniel Holmes stumbles upon it quite by accident. Before long, the ‘shop from nowhere’ — and its owner, Mr Silver — draw Daniel into a breathtaking world of magic and enchantment. Recruited as Mr Silver’s apprentice, Daniel learns the secrets of the Emporium’s vast labyrinth of passageways and rooms — rooms that contain wonders beyond anything Daniel has ever imagined. But when Mr Silver disappears, and a shadow from the past threatens everything, the Emporium and all its wonders begin to crumble. Can Daniel save his home, and his new friends, before the Nowhere Emporium is destroyed forever?
I picked this book up in Scotland last summer (I wanna say it was like the “Scottish Children’s Book of the Year” or something along those lines), and finally got around to reading it.
…for those of us who open our eyes, those who truly dare to wonder, there is treasure everywhere.
Let me start by saying that I did enjoy it. It was cute and imaginative, and kept me intrigued (although I did get a little impatient at one point). While most of the story took place in present-day Glasgow, every so often there were chapters that took us back to Edinburgh in the late 1800’s. It was a nice way to talk about Mr. Silver’s backstory without filling the present-day chapters with paragraphs of exposition.
Stories are precious.. They are treasure. And the most precious story of all is that of life.
I liked Daniel as a protagonist; while he wasn’t anything special, per se, he was curious and gentle and formed a sweet relationship with Mr. Silver’s daughter, Ellie. Ellie had the potential to be a great character too, but I felt she was a little stiff and maybe not as fleshed out as Daniel or even Mr. Silver. The villain – who had a fabulous name – was a little on the comical side because of how aggressive he was (he had a Count Olaf vibe), and I saw one of the plot twists coming from a hundred pages away, but the writing was still charming.
My problem with the book is that it seemed familiar, like I’d already read it before. At first, I thought it was bringing back vague memories of the movie, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, but several Goodreads reviews mentioned how similar it is to Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (except, obviously, for a middle grade audience!). There’s also a scene that is ALMOST IDENTICAL to a scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and it bothered me that the editor didn’t point it out or try to change part of it (seriously, it’s practically verbatim).
I keep waffling between giving it a 3.5 and a 4; on the one hand, it was enjoyable and a breeze to get through; on the other, it seemed like a mishmash of other books and movies, so it didn’t feel unique enough to warrant four stars. It would be a great book to hand to a middle grade reader who was not up to committing to the whole Harry Potter series, though.