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Astrologer’s Apprentice – Kirkus Review

“A good start to a series, with durable characters and fascinating theories.”

A man’s devotion to astrology draws in his young nephew as well as a clandestine organization wanting to use his skills to perfect horoscope interpretation in Jaegers’ debut drama.”

Seventeen-year-old Robert isn’t happy that his family is moving to the country and that he’ll spend his senior year at another school. On the plus side, Robert will be closer to his sheep-farmer uncle, Rufus. Robert, a bright student, appreciates that his uncle’s “different”; he’s a former teacher with a unique way of thinking—most notably an extensive knowledge of astrology. Though some, like Robert’s dad, James, write off the study as nonsense, Rufus stresses that astrology can augment rather than replace one’s religious practice. In fact, he works this notion into a book, Heaven: The Unified Field Theory, in which he argues, among other things, that heaven isn’t as much a place as a state of mind. At an astrology conference, Rufus meets like-minded individuals who invite him to join the covert Data Collection Group. They’re primarily interested in “advanced data collection,” which is essentially pooling people’s private information to optimize astrological readings. This would entail hacking, so Rufus turns to Robert and his computer-savvy friends who are willing to invade others’ privacy (though they’re using the info for research only). And they may have to add a few DCG recruits—discreetly. The author builds a solid foundation for his characters. Robert, for one, inching closer to college, undergoes relationship turmoil, at one point torn between lusty Kristin and steady girlfriend Jane. Astrology, meanwhile, is repeatedly and convincingly defended by Rufus. Not surprisingly, the concepts are abstract; even Robert asserts that his uncle’s ideas are “hard to visualize.” But Rufus’ notion of a unified version of the afterlife based on various religions makes sense. The plan to hack the Census Bureau database, however, while intriguing, isn’t quite the “bizarre secretive web” that Rufus apparently believes it to be. Regardless, the stage is definitely set for an ongoing series, with much left to explore, including enigmatic DCG bigwig, Walter.

A good start to a series, with durable characters and fascinating theories.

—Kirkus Reviews

Foreword Review

“Enthusiasts of astrology and theology will appreciate Astrologer’s Apprentice for its ability to challenge the perception of God.

Part coming-of-age story and part cyberthriller, David John Jaegers’s Astrologer’s Apprentice is a journey into philosophical theology through the lens of an astrology-obsessed writer and his young protégé. Blending the ancient art of stargazing with modern Internet culture, Astrologer’s Apprentice questions society’s traditional views of God and astrology.

The story follows a young man named Robert as he navigates a family move to the country, teenage romance, and a relationship with his eccentric Uncle Rufus. Robert begins to learn astrology under the singularly minded Rufus, who has a burning obsession to legitimize astrological studies. Rufus’s quest leads him, Robert, and Robert’s friends into a world of white lies, data hacking, and mysteriously powerful people who can help bring Rufus’s dreams to fruition.

Country life is exactly what Robert needs to blossom from a smart but shy boy into a strong and confident man. Robert’s frequently awkward interactions make his transition into adulthood seem relatable; he’s insecure around his good-looking friends and struggles to balance his family’s expectations of him with his own goals. Typically for a teenager, Robert is also flustered by many of the women in the novel, most of whom are vehicles for the characters to explore their sexuality. Robert treats women as life lessons instead of people, and Rufus uses them for escapist fantasy; very few of the female characters participate in the philosophical conversations that are at the heart of the book’s message.

The deep discussions between characters do not seem forced, but they are clearly a channel to express potentially controversial theological viewpoints. When the characters are not engaging in debate, the novel’s pacing can be unnecessarily detail oriented, and there are many lengthy descriptions of events and environments that are disconnected from the plot.

Robert’s growth is paralleled with Rufus’s odyssey from a teacher and writer to a member of a curious organization of people who claim to have the same goal of improving astrological information. As Rufus’s story develops, the characters take on increasingly larger risks to accumulate birth data. It’s hard to imagine anyone, even those enthralled by the zodiac, agreeing to steal information from government organizations in the name of astrology. One character jeopardizes his job with the Census Bureau, and Robert’s friends are barely out of high school when they plot multiple data attacks on the United States government.

Although there are many references to the subjects of religion and God, information about astrology is strangely absent. Rufus and Robert discuss aspects of their signs and houses from time to time, but more explanation of the zodiac, sign traits, and how these factors contribute to the personalities and decisions of the characters would have helped legitimize their behavior.

This book conjures up a charming countryside farmhouse to escape into, and the slower-moving parts of the novel are punctuated by Rufus’s peculiar escapades into the unknown. Enthusiasts of astrology and theology will appreciate Astrologer’s Apprentice for its ability to challenge the perception of God and to what extent the universe plays a role in life.”

–Foreword Reviews

Midwest Book Review

Book 1 short description with clickable link to the page that's all about the 1st book

“Book One of the Astrotheologian series tells of teen Robert, who undergoes a vast change when he moves from a comfortable suburban prep school world to the country, where an eccentric uncle’s passion for astrology rubs off on the impressionable young man.

But what seems a crazy passion turns into something more deadly as Robert begins to discover that his uncle’s special brand of spirituality holds some insidiously-dangerous results.

It’s difficult to easily brand this story: with elements of a coming-of-age saga mixed with Christian and new age overtones and spiced with the overlay of a thriller tempered by moral and ethical questions, it holds the ability to cross genres and appeal to a wide range of audiences, from readers seeking stories of young adult personal and spiritual evolutions to leisure reading audiences who want elements of theological discussion in their reading.

Astrologer’s Apprentice skirts the edge of a variety of genres, but its overlying Christian theme will especially attract and interest those who like more than a light hand on the spiritual tiller. Connections between astrology and conventional religion are explored (“Astrology has offered me a framework for understanding what God wants me to do with my life. When I was born, I was given gifts, attributes, qualities, talents. That can mean strengths, and depending on how I handle it, can mean weaknesses. So how do I use that knowledge to help me praise God? By realizing that my share of the gifts is only a very limited part of the total gifts that God bestows, I embrace humility. You and your father also have your own limited parts of the total gifts. Each person’s obligation to God is to do his best with the gifts he has.”) as Robert searches for answers, asks questions, and questions his uncle’s path in life as well as his own future.

From the sacrifices involved in a collaborative research project and a treasure hunt across some fifty states to the kernel of sane truth in seemingly mad pursuits, Astrologer’s Apprentice calls much into question and uncovers the basic elements in lives well lived, their underlying belief structures and influences, and most of all, the choices involved in accepting the gift of transformative knowledge.

Robert finds his life changed by his pursuits, and readers along for the journey – particularly those who enjoy theological discussion and astrology mysteries – will relish their travels in Astrologer’s Apprentice, a hard-hitting novel wrapping elements of a mystery and thriller with greater questions about morality and belief.”

D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review