Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE MAGIC THIEF by Sarah Prineas

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The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas is one of the most elegantly written and touching juvenile fantasy novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading to my ten year old in some time. The story centers around a young thief named Conn who pickpockets a locus magicalicus (a powerful stone that allows a wizard to unleash great magic) from an old wizard. The fact that Conn isn’t struck dead at once interests the wizard enough to take him on as a servant. Conn says apprentice, but that’s hardly the job he receives.

The old wizard is as disreputable in his own way as Conn is. Twenty years ago, Nevery was accused of attempting to kill the Duchess of Wellmet where Conn lives. Nevery was run out of town just ahead of the soldiers that would have doubtlessly hung him.

Now, twenty years later, Nevery is drawn back to the city because the magic that powers the place is mysteriously drying up. Nevery uses that predicament to leverage his own return and gets the Duchess to grant him amnesty for his past wrongs, even though he didn’t try to kill her.

I love the way Prineas has Wellmet sectioned off into Twilight, Dusk House, Dawn Palace, and the other regions. Illustrator Antonio Javier Caparo’s maps and drawings really established the tone well and led my son and me into a wonderful imaginary journey throughout the city. The place just feels real.

The relationship between the characters, though predictable because they are steeped in tradition, are even more wonderful because the reader knows what to expect. Prineas expertly moves those relationships along, teasing the reader with them. I kept wanting Nevery to acknowledge Conn as his apprentice for so long, then – when Conn was in such dire straits – I’d forgotten about it and Prineas delivered that so expertly that I knew it was coming and was so concerned about other things that I’d temporarily forgotten.

That relationship, that push/pull of wills and the need to understand each other, drives this book and I’m sure will drive the other two in this trilogy. The addition of Benet as the hired muscle and his – eventual – doting uncle role with Conn is amazingly portrayed as well.

I have to admit that the first few pages seemed to dawdle a bit, but this is a relatively big world to explore, and there’s some history – particularly between the major players – that has to be revealed slowly. Prineas makes the whole thing play well, and it isn’t long before she has everything up and running.

Along with all the mystery and intrigue, as well as the duplicitous and suspicious nature of the characters, the author also throws in one-liners that and humor that is to die for. One of the best scenes in the book was when Conn was captured by the duchess’s guards, thrown into a prison cell, then lets himself out with his Lockpicking skills. Only to give himself away when he gladly hails Nevery, whom he hadn’t expected to see at all.

When Prineas locks onto the final scenes of the book, about the last sixty pages so be prepared to keep reading for a bit, there’s just no way to tear yourself free. My son and I were nailed to the pages, pushing way past our bedtimes as we finished up the last one hundred and forty pages in a reading marathon that had us hanging on by our fingernails.

The Magic Thief ends well, resolving several questions, but it raises several others that will keep my son and I anxiously awaiting the next installment. This is definitely a book to pick up for the kids to read over the summer, and you may find yourself chasing Conn and Nevery through Strangle Street and avoiding the Underlord’s minions yourself!



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