Small Press Reviews: The New Apprentice by Michael Weber

Review by Jenna Zerbel, Orange Hat Publishing | Ten16 Press

TEN16 Press, a division of Orange Hat Publishing, housing fiction, non-fiction, YA and poetry books.

Wesley Derek Fulstarter fancies himself a hero, but his quick temper keeps him in hot water. A street fight with the neighborhood bully, Conrad, gets him arrested, landing them both in the stockades on Ploughman’s Wharf. From there, Wesley finds himself on a rescue mission involving pirates, ogres, and sorcerers. The New Apprentice follows two timelines—before and after catastrophe strikes the city that Wesley calls home. Protecting his loved ones is a matter of bravery and finding allies in unexpected places…

Michael Weber’s debut novel is a standout in the young adult fantasy genre. This plot-driven novel will keep readers at the edge of their seats between two interwoven timelines. Whether before the flood or after, Wesley’s adventures are swift and action-packed. There is no good time to put this story down, and I mean that in the best way possible. You will need to keep reading once you get started.

One of this book’s most impressive feats is the impossibility of guessing where the story is headed. Coming-of-age fantasy is a genre rife with tropes, and although there are still plenty of familiar features in The New Apprentice, Weber manages to put a new spin on how these tales unfold. This book dares to explore the unexpected, and the risk pays off. Journeying with these characters is a perfect mix of joyful triumphs and gut-wrenching losses.

Of course, an interesting plot would be nothing without a distinct voice. Weber’s writing style is the beating heart of this book, vivid in its imagery and emotional punches. The action is cinematically painted into readers’ minds, putting you right in the middle of battles with pirates and sorcerers. Summer is the perfect time for reading about larger-than-life adventures, and this is one you won’t want to miss! 


Derek Fulstarter fancies himself a hero, but his quick temper keeps him in hot water. Like this morning, when a street fight with the neighborhood bully, Conrad, got him arrested, landing both of them in the stockades on Ploughman’s Wharf. When they witness the bully’s sister, Dani, getting kidnapped, Derek has to make a choice—be the hero he imagines himself to be or let the bully figure things out on his own.

With a little push from a mentor, Derek realizes it’s time to put up or shut up. He and Conrad escape the stockade and set off on an adventure with swaggering swordsmen, towering minotaurs, and pirates on the high seas to save the kidnapped children. Along the way, Derek discovers a new friend in Conrad, as well as admiration for Dani, who proves to be much stronger than Derek realized.

About the Book

The New Apprentice

Wizards and giants and ogres, oh my! The New Apprentice starts with a bang—literally huge explosions—and keeps the reader on tenterhooks until the very end. Along the way, we are treated to rich world-building, compelling (and colorful) characters, and a fresh take on the hero’s journey. With the added bonus of lush artwork and masterful storytelling, this book will stay with you long after you read the final page..”

—Kim Suhr, author of Nothing to Lose 

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Article originally Published in the June / July / August 2023 Issue: Summer Reads.

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