Archie Greene’s world is turned upside down when he takes a mysterious package to Oxford. A visit to long-lost family takes an unexpected turn when his aunt Loretta tells him about the Flame Keepers of Alexandria – a community devoted to finding and preserving magical books. When Archie hears that he is a Flame Keeper, too, he can hardly believe his ears.
At first Archie thinks it must be a family joke. Here they are talking about magical books as if it was all perfectly normal. But his uncle Woodbine and his two cousins, Bramble and Thistle Foxe, aren’t laughing. They can’t be serious, surely? Or can they? They explain that they save magical books from Greaders – evil collectors who are greedy for the magic they contain.
Archie is about to enter a world he knew nothing about.
Hidden under the winding streets of Oxford is a secret place where magical books and artefacts are carefully catalogued and magic is still practised.
Welcome to the Museum of Magical Miscellany!
The Golden Age of Magic
Most people have forgotten about magic or don’t know it ever existed. But, as Archie soon discovers, there was a time when it flourished, a Golden Age of magic. In those days the most powerful magicians in the world created spells, enchantments and charms, which they wrote down in books for others to use.
When Alexander the Great built his empire he collected magic from every country he conquered. It was the greatest collection of magical knowledge ever assembled and the most valuable as well. He amassed all manner of magical instruments and artefacts. He even had his own magical gardens and a menagerie of magical creatures. But what Alexander prized above all else was his collection of magical books. Alexander gave the task of protecting the magical books to his most trusted scribes – the Flame Keepers.
The Flame Keepers of Alexandria
In Egypt, Alexander planned a great library to house his collection and keep it safe – the Great Library of Alexandria. When the Great Library burnt down in 48 BC, Alexander’s collection needed a new home so the Flame Keepers brought the surviving books to Oxford and established the Museum of Magical Miscellany.
But the Museum has enemies. Archie and the other apprentices who work at the Museum must be always on their guard against the Greaders. Above all else the Greaders desire a small number of very powerful magical books. The Terrible Tomes are the seven most dangerous dark-magic books ever written. It is said that if the Greaders get their hands on just one of the Terrible Tomes they could destroy the world.
And as Archie is about to discover, he has an extraordinary talent that means only he can keep the Museum safe from the Greaders.
The Flame of Pharos
Pharos is the Flame of Alexandria – the light of the world.
In the harbour in Alexandria, on the island of Pharos, a great lighthouse was built to guide travellers to the Great Library. The Flame of Pharos lit that lighthouse and the Library’s guardians were responsible for ensuring that the Flame was never extinguished. It is the same flame that burns in the Word Smithy in Old Zeb’s the bookbinder’s workshop. The Flame of Pharos marks new apprentices with a firemark on their hand representing one of the three apprentice skills: finding, minding, or binding.
The Three Types of Magic
The Three Apprentice Skills
The Five Lores of Magical Restraint
In 1666, a magical accident caused the Great Fire of London. The Lores of Magical Restraint were agreed to prevent another magical disaster. (Lores is the magical spelling of laws.)
- First Lore. All magical books and artefacts must be returned to the Museum of Magical Miscellany for inspection and classification. (They are classified as level one, two, or three in magical power.)
- Second Lore. Magical books and artefacts may not be used, or bought and sold until properly identified and classified.
- Third Lore. The unauthorised use of magic outside of magical premises is prohibited.
- Fourth Lore. The hoarding of magical books and artefacts to accumulate personal power is not permitted.
- Fifth Lore. The exploitation of magical creatures is expressly forbidden.