Friday, March 20, 2009

The Thief Lord An Enchanting Gem of A Novel

Venice, Italy. A beautiful, glittering city where nothing is quite what it seems. Here, starving children become thieves; a crumbling theater transforms into a hideout; a masked child becomes a feared leader; and a magical artifact will change lives forever. This is the world of The Thief Lord and his band of orphans who steal from the rich to keep themselves alive. This is the world in which brothers Prosper and Bo find themselves after running away from their uncaring aunt and uncle.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke tells their story. When the brothers escape, they head for Venice, the land of their dead mothers fairy tales. By sheer luck, they encounter a masked boy nicknamed The Thief Lord. He thrills them with tales of his derring-do, leads them to his hideout in an abandoned theater, and promises to take care of them. Prosper and Bo refuse to steal, but they enjoy The Thief Lord's protection nonetheless. Their leader, whose real name is Scipio, is generous and kind, as are the others in his merry band. The brothers feel safe in their new home. Still, Prosper fears his relatives will be looking for Bo, whose cherubic face endears him to everyone. Prosper knows his aunt and uncle plan to send him to boarding school, and he refuses to let that happen. Life on the streets is no way to exist, for either of them, but he has no other choice.

One day, Prosper's worst fears are realized when he spies a strange man following him. Riccio, one of the boys' friends, recognizes the man as a Venetian detective named Victor Getz. The children know they must throw the Signor off their scent, but that proves more difficult than they imagined. Turns out, the detective has some startling information for the children, information that will shake their faith in their much-admired leader. Still, the kids must band together to pull off a heist for a wealthy client. Even if they don't understand why they must steal a large wooden wing, they understand what a successful outcome means - 5 million lira in their pockets. When the children discover just what it is they are stealing, they're drawn into a fairy tale which concerns an enchanted merry-go-round, a haunted island, and a secret so incredible it could change all their lives - forever.

While I love Funke's Inkspell books, I like The Thief Lord even better. It's a lush, magical tale that charms with every sentence. From the unique characters, to the exotic setting, to the exciting twists and turns, it's just a gem of a novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so that I can't even think of any criticisms (I think I can actually hear your jaws dropping!) except that it ended long before I was ready to part with Scipio and his merry band of loveable misfits. What else can I say? The Thief Lord is, hands-down, my favorite read of the year. I adored it.

Grade: A

9 comments:

  1. I liked this one better than the Inkheart series too! It's one that I couldn't even pinpoint what I loved about it, I just knew I did. Enchanting is a good word.

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  2. I read this book a few years ago and I loved it just the same. I'm so glad you enjoyed it so much! :)

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  3. I also read this years ago when an elementary school librarian and loved it and recommended it many times.

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  4. Okay, I'm convinced. I will add this to my list but am wondering what age level it is. I am wanting to start chapter books with Alden(4) - any recommendations?

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  5. I really like this one too. It's my mom's favorite of Funke's works. Great review!

    PS did you know Scipio is pronounced "Sheep-io"? Probably, everyone seems to, but me!

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  6. I read this one recently, and while I like the Inkworld series better, this one did have its charm. I felt like the introduction of the magical merry-go-round was a bit too sudden for a book that hadn't had any previous fantasy elements, though.

    I actually just watched the movie adaptation of this over the weekend, which was cute, and pretty faithful to the book. I can see young-ish kids really liking it.

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  7. I loved this book too... stumbled across it by accident, but it was wonderful! I checked out the movie for my kids at the library, and they enjoyed the movie version as well!

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  8. Shelley - You sound like me - I don't know why I loved it, I just did!

    Jessica & Laurel - I'm glad you liked it, too. Sometimes I think books are great that no one else likes :)

    Tara - Since my 4 yo won't even sit still for a picture book, it's hard to know what to recommend. I'd maybe go with classics - Charlotte's Web, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, etc. He might like the Magic Treehouse books, too - lots of kindergarten and first grade teachers read them aloud.

    KT - I did not know that. Reminds of when I was reading HP - I pronounced Hermione HER-MEE-OH-NEE until the first movie came out and I realized it was HER-MY-NEE! LOL.

    Fyrefly - I agree - the fantastical elements did kind of come out of nowhere. Knowing it was a sci-fi/fantasy, it confused me that there was no fantasy in the first part of the book.

    Christy - I put the movie on my Blockbuster queue (however you spell that) - I'm excited to watch it. Sounds like something my kids will enjoy, too.

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  9. I've had this on my shelf (well, actually my piles) for a while now. I will definitely find time to read it now after your high recommendation. Thanks.

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